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Inside Chicago’s new Aurélien apartments

A Gold Coast tower with a heavy dose of West Loop chic

Like many addresses on Chicago’s Near North Side, the site of the recently-opened 31-story Aurélien apartment tower at the corner of Clark and Chestnut can fall under multiple, overlapped neighborhoods. For instance, the new building could easily claim River North as its own. However, with the project’s very name translating to “golden” in French, it’s obvious the project is embracing Chicago’s ultra-pricy Gold Coast. We stopped by the 368-unit rental development to see if it can keep up with the high expectations set by the luxurious Astor Street crowd.

“The Gold Coast is an area with a lot of history and reputation,” explained Irini Boeder with Lincoln Property Company. “One of the guiding principles was understanding that and making sure that whatever we build in that location was not only a compliment to the neighborhood but draws from it.”

Lincoln, along with Minneapolis-based Ryan Companies and Daiwa House of Texas developed Aurélien at a site previously occupied by a surface parking lot and drive-through used by the adjacent US Bank located in the landmarked Cosmopolitan State Bank building. Designed by Ryan A+E and architect of record Antunovich Associates, the building certainly does not look out of place.

Opting not to go with an all-glass design, the tower’s exterior took a somewhat old school approach with buff-colored granite at street level topped by painted precast concrete panels. While the immediate neighborhood wasn’t calling out for yet another beige building, the execution still manages to be fairly modern thanks to its relatively unfussy lines and use of reflective tinted glass. No pseudo-historic Mansard roof here.

Beyond the self-described “understated elegance” of the exterior, Aurélien really shines from the inside out. Since most people who live in rental buildings won’t spend the time or money to bring in a professional designer, an important goal of Aurélien was to still give tenants a chance to experience and enjoy cutting-edge interiors. The building’s developers tapped Karen Herold’s West Loop-based Studio K to lead that effort.

Recognized by most for their work on some of Chicago’s most trendy chef-driven restaurants, including the highly anticipated Nobu Hotel, the firm aimed to bring some “West Loop chic” to the Gold Coast in a way that still respects the neighborhood.

“One of the primary attractions for working with Studio K was that they hadn’t done a lot of apartments,” explained Boeder. “We wanted something that was different and found a really great partner in Karen Herold and her team.”

Studio K’s restaurant-focused DNA is clearly on display in the tower’s double-height ground floor concierge and amenity spaces. Instead of being tucked away higher in the building, the Aurélien’s parlor, library, and so-called morning room are all on display from the street through double-height glass.

Metal frame windows and floor-to-ceiling pivot doors ooze with West Loop trendiness and work just as well here as it would at a place like the Soho House. Featuring eye-catching jewelry-like chandeliers and over-sized wall art, the ground level further elevates its street presence with signage that seems more akin to a high-end retailer or hotel rather than an apartment building.

With no retail component and the building’s garage access ramps pushed off to the side, there’s plenty of room for other amenities. Around the corner from the grand parlor space is a dedicated conference room and a well-designed mail room with computers for checking emails and printing off documents. Other ground floor amenities include a large bike room, dog run, pet spa, and locker delivery system for packages and dry cleaning.

Moving higher in the building, residents and guests will find a large indoor/outdoor party room on the fourth floor. This reservable space can be used for relaxing or entertaining and leads to a large grass and concrete “garden terrace.” Featuring multiple fire pits, grilling stations, and bocce ball courts, the fourth floor deck is cleverly oriented on an angle to offer more nooks and corners in which residents can find a higher degree of relative quiet and privacy.

Unsurprisingly, the most impressive amenities are located on Aurélien’s top floor. Situated 300 feet above the street and offering panoramic views of Chicago’s skyline, this level includes a game area, outdoor pool, a second party room, and an exercise complex with a separate spin/yoga studio featuring Fitness on Demand. It is also here that residents can enjoy the men’s and women’s “meditation lounges”—quiet, spa-like sitting areas with steam showers.

“In a lot of apartment buildings, people work out and then go back to their units to shower,” continued Boeder. “While we recognize that most people aren’t necessarily going to use [the lounges] to do that, having this sort of private club-like option is a reflection of the level of luxury that Gold Coast residents expect.”

After touring Aurélien’s jaw-dropping amenities, the bar of the apartments themselves likely ends up being set unreasonably high. While the units may not have the condo-grade finishes of The Hudson, Aurélien’s residences are nonetheless sophisticated and well laid out.

Each unit features floor-to-ceiling glass and good views in every direction. The open-plan kitchens feature sleek cabinets, stainless appliances, and quartz counter tops. While certainly nice, there is a slight feeling of “so what” after getting your socks knocked off by Studio K’s communal spaces.

According to the building’s website, rents for a studio start at $1,895—which is a relative deal considering that some studio units in certain new buildings as far away as Logan Square are priced similarly. Prices rise steadily from there with penthouse units fetching monthly rents well into to the five-figure range.

So are renters going for it? Based on a recent press release from the developer, the newly-opened Aurélien is already 50 percent leased. While the figure sounds encouraging, it’s perhaps the manner in which the apartments are filling up that is most noteworthy.

“Most buildings that I’ve been involved with before tend to rent from the ‘bottom up’ with smaller, more affordable units going first,” explained Steve Burlingame, the Aurélien’s business manager. “Here, it was a complete 180 of that. Penthouses flew off the shelf, followed by the largest two-bedrooms, and so on. It’s a really interesting dynamic.”


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