Tony Lincoln Park projects show the rich are all right

Whatever else is happening in the city or with its housing market, demand powers onward in the city’s wealthy districts.

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A rendering of the Christian Science Church, 2700 N. Pine Grove Ave.

A rendering of the Christian Science Church, 2700 N. Pine Grove Ave., showing the proposed six-story addition for residences.

Booth Hansen Associates

In Chicago, despite all the horrible things happening in the streets, developers continue to show faith in the city’s long-term appeal for the rich and for well-paid professionals.

Some years ago, the construction push concentrated on the Lincoln Park neighborhood, with projects such as new high-rise housing on the old sites of Columbus and Children’s Memorial hospitals. In recent years, the Near West Side, its prospects helped by more permissive city zoning, took most of the attention. The next phase of Chicago’s growth will move north and northwest of downtown. You can read that trend in the largest pending developments.

They include the Lincoln Yards transformation of old riverfront industrial property, the plans for a high-rise cluster on Goose Island and the redevelopment with additional density of Near North property the Moody Bible Institute no longer wants. The proposed Bally’s casino at Halsted Street and Chicago Avenue would fit that scheme, too. Nearby residents have protested the effects a casino could have on traffic, but from the looks of it, they’ll have more reasons than just a casino to worry about congestion.

Chicago Enterprise bug

Chicago Enterprise

With all that going on, it’s easy to forget about Lincoln Park, a condensed, vertical version of a North Shore suburb. Compared with the latest development hot spots, Lincoln Park has fewer opportunities for new construction. But two new projects show investors will pounce when a buildable site becomes available.

Both are getting a hearing Thursday before the Chicago Plan Commission. The projects are close enough to Lake Michigan to fall under the Lakefront Protection Ordinance, requiring the plan commission review.

The first project is a blend of historic preservation and new construction. It would save the Second Church of Christ, Scientist, at 2700 N. Pine Grove Ave. — by grafting on a six-story residential addition. The church, built in 1901 in the style of a Greek temple, is a typically standout design of architect Solon S. Beman, famous for his work on George Pullman’s factory town. The church has showed up on landmark groups’ “most endangered” lists.

Changes at the property have been kicked around for years. Many in the neighborhood didn’t want another tall building to replace the church. City documents about the project say the congregation has dwindled and has a harder time supporting the building.

The church has struck a deal with Ogden Partners to build an addition containing 22 homes and 31 parking spaces, according to material prepared for the plan commission. The church would remain in about 5,000 square feet. Representatives of the church and the developer could not be reached for comment.

“This saves the exterior and the whole front part of the building so that the congregation can still worship. It’s a compromise and it’s a good one,” said local Ald. Michele Smith (43rd). She said the homes will be for sale, not rentals.

Current zoning would allow a developer to plop 77 units on the site, so the lower density represents a concession to the neighborhood. Booth Hansen Associates, the architecture firm on the job, made several changes in response to critiques from planning officials, Smith said. The addition is designed “not to compete with the existing façade, but to subtly complement it,” the development team said in its report to the city.

The other project is just a couple blocks away, also an easy stroll from the lakefront. It answers the question: “How much could you build on a regular, narrow city lot?” Try, a 10-story building.

That’s what’s to come at 438 W. St. James Place. A single-family home there has been demolished, leaving a lot that’s all of 33 feet by 146 feet, enough for five exclusive homes and five parking spaces.


A rendering of the 10-story building proposed for 438 W. St. James Place. Its eastern exposure faces the mansion built for Morningstar Chairman Joe Mansueto.

Hirsch MPG

Real-estate agent Genna Hill, also an investor in the project, said the homes will start at $1.9 million and reach about $4 million for a penthouse. The project has not sparked local objections — and it has a very prominent neighbor. Morningstar Chairman Joe Mansueto lives at 424 W. St. James Place, in a modern mansion built on several lots.

Hill said her project, with architecture by Hirsch MPG, is for those seeking luxury in a boutique building. Asked if rising interest rates or a feared slowdown in housing demand worry her, Hill said she has several prospective buyers. “At this price point, we still have a lot of cash buyers,” she said.

So all is well on the market’s high end. It would just be a shame if, with the development trend radiating north and west of downtown, we’re widening that old North Side-South Side economic divide.

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