Lake Point Tower owners block condo deconversion

Unit owners approve measures to keep developers from taking control.

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Developer William Harnett Jr. outside his Lake Point Tower in 1968.

Chicago Sun-Times

Condominium owners at Chicago’s Lake Point Tower said Monday they have approved measures to thwart developers who want to “deconvert” the 70-story high-rise into rental units.

The owners had received sales solicitations. Had an investor accumulated enough of the 875 units to force a sale, the building could have been the most highly valued condo deconversion in Chicago.

But that won’t happen because of votes by the building’s condo board and its unit owners, said JoAnn O’Brien, a 31-year building resident and the board president.

She said the board and residents have agreed to cap the number of units that are rented at 25%. Residents also have prohibited any individual owner from controlling more than 2% of the units.

O’Brien said the deconversion would have changed the character of the building and been hard on fixed-income residents who don’t want to move. “It’s a very strong community here. People want to live here, and many have stayed for a long time. This is their home,” she said.

O’Brien said the condo board passed the two measures unanimously. More than two-thirds of unit owners approved the 25% measure and 75% approved the 2% maximum for a single owner.

A city ordinance passed in September requires that 85% of condo unit owners approve before an entire building can be sold, up from the prior threshold of 75%.

Lake Point Tower, as the only high-rise east of Lake Shore Drive, is among the most recognizable buildings in Chicago and highly sought after for views that won’t be hemmed in by new construction. Its three curved wings are angled to prevent residents from seeing into each other’s units.

Its architects were George Schipporeit and John Heinrich, who were influenced by Ludwig Mies van der Rohe. The developer was William Harnett Jr.

It opened in 1968 for apartments and was converted to condos in 1988, part of a wave in urban markets at the time. But recently, with apartment rents high and some condo owners, especially absentees, looking to cash out, developers have found it profitable to attempt deconversions.

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