Category Archives: real estate

Opening of New Cultural Venue

What was once the Church of the Epiphany – located at 201 S. Ashland Avenue – will soon become a multi-dimensional space used for a variety of cultural events.  This will become one of Chicago’s largest venues for cultural activities.  It is also regarded as a landmark in the region.

“Chicago’s Church of the Epiphany was an historic landmark, built back in the mid-nineteenth century and designed by Burling and Whitehouse which was the famous architectural firm made famous by Francis Whitehouse,” explains Moshe Victor Keinig, a retired architect now living in Israel.

“I remember once seeing the church and being almost awe-struck by stone that was used and indeed how they were used.  I learned later that they had been imported from Lake Superior and were irregularly placed on the building,” Keinig adds.

Today, that same property is in the hands of David Chase and his wife Kimberly Rachal who made the purchase and are committed to preserving the property along with the buildings next to it.  Once up and running, it will feature a courtyard, three very different spaces in which to hold events as well as additional areas that will aim to bolster arts and culture.

Rather than it just remaining vacant (as has been for a while) it will be known as the Epiphany Center for the Arts and become a great location for community gatherings, etc.

Travels in Time

Terra Cotta

It’s amazing how much of real estate, environment and infrastructure changes over time…and yet stays very much the same.  At the moment one example of this is what has evolved over the years at West Oakdale Avenue. 

In 2005, a new landmark was designated in Chicago within the Lakeview neighborhood.  the area between Seminary and Sheffield Streets for locals and tourists alike to check out historical buildings.  Many years ago these were home to the Northwestern Terra Cotta Company officers founded in 1878 by John True and others which became the name in terra cotta trimmings.

one of those houses – completed in 1887 – was given the name the Henry Rokham House.  that became known as The Queen of Terra Cotta Row and in 2012 had a market value of nearly $2.5million.  Featuring stained glass windows, brick etchings of a woman on a spinning wheel, unique tile work, original coach house and more, it was designed by Theodore Karls.

now, for the first time in six decades one of these properties is for sale!!! The two floor building with four bedrooms, three and a half bathrooms, and two kitchens has a 1970s vintage feel to it.  back in its day it was known as “the absolute crème de la crème.”  now it can be yours for $699,000 to enjoy leopard print carpeting, condo sports and more.  It may be somewhat outdated and in need of some modernization but the location and the story it tells brings it more than charm.

Chicago Real Estate Updates

Fall in Chicago always looks good but now it’s also looking quite attractive for those in the real estate industry.  According to a recent report from a local consulting firm Tracy Cross & Associates, new home sales were 3% higher this September than last.  There was a decline however, but that was in the median price of new homes – a drop to under $350,000 in Q2 2018 and Q3 2018.

Tracy Cross’ EVP Erik Doresching explains this as being “from builders trying to gain some momentum [who were attempting to reverse a rather sluggish beginning to 2018, when year-over-year sales were down seven percent.”

Nationwide however, Chicago isn’t faring so well.   In 2017 it was ranked 42 (out of 79 largest real estate markets) but this year it dropped to 49.  Perhaps more noteworthy and concerning is that in 2016 it came in at Number 19.

Still, within the Chicago real estate industry there is some good news.  For a mere $1, lots are available for purchase within the city.  4,000 of these are up for offer – spaces currently owned by the city throughout the South, Southwest and West.  Thanks to the Chicago Large Lots Program (established by Mayor Rahm Emanuel in 2015), 2,000 lots have already been sold which are being utilized to “create new social spaces and to grow flowers and vegetables.”

Building Developments in Chicago

There have been some interesting new construction developments in the Windy City as of late.  Here, we discuss three of them: Fulton Market WeWork, the Johnson Publishing Building and the Starbucks on Canal Street.

Randy Rissman of Tiger Electronics is in the process of completing a deal to purchase a six-floor office building located at 210-220 N. Green Street in Fulton.  With a price tag of approximately $45 million, those selling the property (Shapack Partners, AJ Capital Partners and Shorenstein Properties) will make a tidy profit on what it paid originally – $6.8 million – in 2013.

The Johnson Publishing Building – located on South Michigan Avenue – is in the process of converting what has been office space to 150 apartments for rent.  This should start in the beginning of 2018 by 3L Real Estate which just acquired the construction from Columbia College.

Although it already has the largest Starbucks in Chicago, apparently that’s not good enough for the coffee tycoon.  Plans have been revealed to develop it to be more than double of its original size, adding 30,000 square feet in its 111 N. Canal Street building to cater to additional workers behind the scenes who are developing new concepts for the firm. Right now, its regional Chicagoan office is nearly 14,000 square feet, located at 564 W. Randolph Street.

Chicago’s New Developments

Chicago will soon be home to the world’s largest ever Starbucks.  In 2019, North Michigan Avenue will have a Starbucks Reserve Roastery measuring 43,000 square feet, spanning four floors, offering customers a “fully sensorial coffee environment dedicated to roasting, brewing and packaging.”

The Mayor is wholly supportive of this move, seeing the benefit of the city’s “Magnificent Mile,” which he said “brings in millions of visitors from across this globe.”  Rahm Emanuel thus believes it to be the  perfect location for a world-class coffee destination.”  Further, for the economy as a whole it is a positive move, given that it is making a large investment in Chicago and will be of benefit to locals as well.

The development has been received by other business people as well.  For example, Crate and Barrel founder Gordon Segal, commented that it will have a “unique way of becoming a beacon for a brand.”  He added that he “can’t think of a better retailer than Starbucks to offer Chicago something new and exciting with its Reserve Roastery.”

Other developments in progress include: One Bennett Park (a 70-floor tower at 451 E. Grand that started building last spring) designed by Robert A.M. Stern, a New York architect; Optima Chicago Center II a 57-story tower at 220 East Illinois.

 

High-End Real Estate Doing Well in Wisconsin

A new record was set in the top-priced, second-home market in November in Wisconsin. Lake Geneva saw three homes sell for at least $5 million. Lake Geneva is 80 miles north of Chicago. Here in Chicago, during the same month only one home sold in that price range, a Glencoe estate bringing in a cool $8.5 million.

If you add in the sale in September of the Lake Geneva estate which went for $9.55 million, it would not be an exaggeration to say “we’ve had a good season of top-of-the-market activity here,” as David Curry, a Geneva Lakefront Realty broker said.

Those four sales alone have already surpassed 2015. Last year Walworth County had just three homes that sold in this super-price range.

In the 15 years prior to that there had never been more than one sale per year in that price range.

Curry added that “If we had five more $5 million listings, I could sell them this year. People are knocking on doors.”

New Mariano’s Location Sold for $34 Million

In one more of what has been a long run of high-profile sales, a New York investor purchased the Bronzeville building where Mariano’s grocery store recently opened.

Mariano’s opened the new store at Martin Luther King Drive and Pershing Road on October 11 this year. Just about two weeks later the building was sold for $34 million. The sale should not affect the grocery, which has a twenty-year lease with four five-year options to extend the lease. Rent goes up every five years.

Not too long ago another Mariano’s location in north suburban Vernon Hills sold for $36 million.

Chicago Neighborhood Initiative was part of the venture that developed Mariano’s. The Initiative is a non-profit that helps areas around Chicago where development is sorely needed. Other interests behind the development were Chicago firms WBS Equities, Safeway Construction, and Bartlett-based Abbott Land & Investment.

The total cost of the original development is not completely clear, but in 2014, when the CNI announced plans for the project they said it would cost as much as $24 million.

Real Estate in Lake Forest is a Hard Sell

Lake Forest City Hall, Lake Forest, IL. Photo by Teemu08
Lake Forest City Hall, Lake Forest, IL. Photo by Teemu08

The iconic North Shore neighborhood of Lake Forest has one of slowest real estate markets in its peer group. Homes that were sold in May were on the market an average of 186 days. In the middle of June there were 97 homes which had been listed at least 6 months ago. Other areas with similar homes had less than 20 for sale that long. Hinsdale had 46 homes and Highland Park 57.

“It’s been slow up here,” says Marina Carney, an agent for Griffith, Grant & Lackie. “We’re all feeling it,” says Berkshire Hathaway Home-Services Koenig-Rubloff Realty Group agent Sue Beanblossom, in Lake Forest. “It takes a long time to get something sold in Lake Forest today.”

According to Midwest Real Estate Data, at the end of May Lake Forest had enough homes to supply sales for 14.5 months. In just about all its peers, such as Hinsdale and other North Shore suburbs, the inventory is quite smaller. For those other areas it was between three and 10.5 months at the end of May. A rule of thumb is that a healthy, balanced market has about six months of inventory.

Winnetka is a similar suburb to Lake Forest, but considerably smaller. Nevertheless, seven homes priced at over $5 million has sold in Winnetka in the past three years. In Lake Forest only four have sold.

Real estate agents say that the problem is three-fold: the age of the homes in Lake Forest; the extremely high asking prices; a long commute to downtown Chicago, combined with low-motivated sellers.

 

Home Prices Rising in Chicago and the Nation

Photo courtesy of  Mark Moz
Photo courtesy of
Mark Moz

Several parameters have conspired to raise the price of homes in the Chicago area: mortgage rates below 4 percent; home loans are easier to come by; strongest job market since the recession; more people wanting to buy homes. And now, as the housing market enters the traditional season for home purchases, a shortage of homes has added more fuel to the fire of rising home prices.

The real estate website Trulia conducted a study showing that people across the country are finding it difficult to find a home they want to buy at a price they can afford. In Chicago and the surrounding area, and in Illinois in general, sales continue to rise, according to the Illinois Association of Realtors.

“Illinois continues to see sustained growth in sales and median prices, indicating the market is poised for a strong rollout for the spring selling season,” said Mike Drews, president of the state Realtors group, in a statement.

Home sales in the nine-county Chicago area rose by 6.1 percent in February, compared to last year, and prices rose by 7.1 percent. The median price for homes and condos sold was $187,500, compared with $175,000 in February 2015.

In Chicago itself things were even worse: The median price for homes and condos was up by 12.3 percent, to $238,000 from $212,000 in February 2015.

“There was a lot of movement in 2013 and 2014, but 2015 slowed,” said Carla Walker, an agent with Berkshire Hathaway Home Services Koenig Rubloff.

Chicago Home Sales Up in 2015

Despite a downturn in the rate the rest of the country is taking out mortgages, the Chicago area has seen an upward spike in home loans at the end of 2015 as compared to the same time period the year before.

In addition, area re-financing also grew during the fourth quarter of 2015, rising at a rate of over double the national average.

Chicago-region buyers received 20,870 mortgages to purchase homes during the last three months of 2015, representing an increase of 3 percent over the last quarter of 2014 when 20,275 mortgages were acquired. In the rest of the country the national average of purchase mortgages fell by one percent.

The number of mortgages taken by home buyers is not a direct measure of the total number of homes purchased, since some people do not use a mortgage to buy a home, if they have enough cash. The Chicago area experienced a 6.6 percent overall rise in home sales for 2015 as compared to 2014.