When a large, 8.5-acre site with a shuttered YMCA became available on Chicago’s North Side in 2005–06, developer Structured Development partnered with a Connecticut company, which invested the majority of the $54 million price, to buy the lot. “We competed against 60 other teams. This was one of the largest land deals in the city, strategically located near good residential and retail. We envisioned it as a mixed-use with condos,” says Jeff Berta, Structured’s senior director of real estate. But with the recession, the partner pulled out and the land was auctioned. When the economy recovered, Structured returned with two new partners to buy the site for $39 million and broke ground in 2013 for a mixed-use project.
The site offered the potential for some beautiful views from the new project’s residential component, Residences at NewCity. Occupants would be able to see the skyline, Lake Michigan, and leafy Lincoln Park. The lot’s downside, however, was its awkward triangular shape, which required imagination to fit all the pieces—apartments, parking, restaurants, stores, and entertainment.
Chicago’s OKW Architects, hired for its mixed-use expertise, designed an underground system for vehicular traffic to keep the area above pedestrian friendly, says firm principal Michael L. Breclaw, AIA, LEED AP. Next came locating the development’s three buildings, each with retail and one also with 15 stories of 199 apartments above. Land was also saved for a landscaped plaza with fountain.
That the team would follow sustainable building guidelines was a given, due to the city of Chicago’s Green Building Matrix, which calls for certain green building practices depending on the type of project, says Berta. In this case, the developer had to comply with the 50% green-roof requirement and exceed ASHRAE minimum standards for energy-efficient buildings.
The transit-oriented-development site also made pursuing LEED certification feasible from the get-go. Additional environmentally sound features include masonry and energy-efficient glass on the building exteriors, a water storage system for irrigation, a central plant for mechanical systems, bicycle storage, and electric-charging stations.
The finished results garnered higher certification than initially expected—LEED Silver for the retail sections and LEED Gold for the residential. Landscape architect Salvador “Chip” Impastato of Dallas-based Studio Outside added visual interest to the outdoor areas year-round despite the cold climate by incorporating boulders, visually interesting plants, seating, lighting, and a seasonal fountain.
NewCity’s residential component was designed with a curved façade of metal and glass to give its 199 units—all with balconies—the best possible views. Instead of being inspired by hip hotels, Breclaw viewed the intimacy of a home as his jumping-off point for the shared amenity spaces, which total a-not-so-intimate 10,000 square feet. The area is large, but the team didn’t want people to feel swallowed up by so much square footage, so they provided more-private areas within, as well as a comfortable, warm ambience rather than a severe modern feeling, he says.
Among the common-area spaces are a lounge with fireplace, communal kitchen/ dining area, cyber café, outdoor-facing fitness center, and outdoor pool, hot tub, fire pit, and barbecues. Inside, the apartments feature 9-foot ceilings, faux-wood flooring, quartz countertops, and open layouts.
Completed last fall, the residential tower is 50% leased, with full occupancy expected by spring. Units range from 590-square-foot studios for $1,770 a month to 1,315-square-foot two-bedrooms at $3,984. Almost 90% of the 390,000 square feet of retail is occupied, with a mix of local and national stores, a fresh market, six restaurants, a 14-screen movie theater, and a bowling alley, which suits a varied cohort of millennials, empty-nesters, and families, says Berta.
The development has helped rejuvenate its Clybourn Corridor neighborhood, says Diana Pittro, executive vice president with RMK Management, which manages the residence. “A lot like it here because it’s less congested and less expensive than nearby Lincoln Park,” she says. As the adage goes: Good things come to those who wait—in this case, 10 years.