When developer Anthony Rossi Sr., president of M&R Development in Chicago, learned five years ago that a site with a garage and abandoned restaurant was available in the South Loop, he knew the downside—the area was considered unsafe. “It had seen better days,” he says. But he also knew the area was starting to transition, with proximity to busy Michigan Avenue and burgeoning development. “For years, development occurred from the Chicago River going north, but with the advent of Millennium Park south of the river [in 2004], I recognized that residential development would also head in that direction,” Rossi says.
Because they knew one another, Rossi and the site’s owner finalized a sale without a request for proposal. Rossi’s vision was to pursue his company’s traditional program of rentals, which in a post-recession market also reflected the greatest demand. “The condo market collapsed after 2008, and there was still a lot of excess inventory. We also knew that the high-end rental market was getting stronger, attracting young professionals who could afford to buy but preferred to remain flexible and rent,” he says. All came together at the East Lake Street site, where his 42-story building, 73 East Lake, opened last April.
The narrow but long site—100 feet wide by 170 feet long—proved challenging for architect Vladimir Andrejevic, an associate principal at Solomon Cordwell Buenz in Chicago. Andrejevic’s solution was innovatively planned studio, one-, and two-bedroom units with as much glass as possible for light, views, a feeling of spaciousness, and a contemporary vibe. Yet, because he wanted the building to fit into its neighborhood, which includes landmarks such as the Chicago Theater, Andrejevic used exposed concrete on columns and metal accents. Glass along the façade permits passersby to peer into the high-ceilinged lobby, where designer Jennifer Banks of locally based Bella Maison used strong colors and novel horn tile. Banks repeated that boldness in the apartments, whose kitchens have sleek metal and slate backsplashes, gray-washed floors, and hip quartz counters.
Rossi understands young professionals’ appetite for the latest amenities, so he piled them on at 73 East Lake: Wi-Fi throughout, indoor garage with pet spa and dog walk area, deck, indoor pool, spa with waterfall, sauna and steam rooms, two-story gym, business center with conference rooms, cyber café, demonstration kitchen, theater, and a penthouse level with a huge event room, dining room, and wraparound terrace. “Everything is open 24/7, so if you want to swim at 3 a.m., I say, ‘Go knock yourself out,’” Rossi says. Units range from 680 to 1,220 square feet; rents, from $2,280 to $4,395. As of late December, the building was almost 80 percent leased.
Despite 73 East Lake’s rental status, M&R pursued LEED Gold certification for the building. “We want to be environmentally sensitive, even though it’s harder when you use an extreme amount of glass. But it doesn’t cost as much as some think, and you get it back upon selling,” Rossi says. Among the green features: a partial green roof, bicycle storage with maintenance shop, 25 bikes to borrow, EnergyStar appliances, and proximity to public transportation. The big question remains: Will Millennials become entrenched in rental digs or switch their mind-set to homeownership, maybe in the ‘burbs? Michael Edwards, president and CEO of the Chicago Loop Alliance, which promotes the area, doesn’t seem concerned. “For now,” he says, “people like the denser core and walkability.” And the building is swank enough that it could be converted to a condo.