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Luxury apartments: Free rent, rooftop bocce ball courts and more

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Apartment hunters have the proverbial ball in their courts, particularly in new luxury buildings near public transportation, where some developers are offering free rent and other incentives to fill up their buildings.

“There is no question it is a great time to be a renter in Chicago right now; there’s a lot of options,” said broker Aaron Galvin, CEO and founder of Luxury Living Chicago.

Galvin’s firm helps people to find apartments in the “Luxury Class A” market made up of newer buildings constructed since 2000. He predicts March will hit “peak vacancy” with roughly 5,000 new luxury apartment units up for rent in Downtown and surrounding neighborhoods.

“It used to be in the past, that if you wanted a luxury building with amenities, you could only get that Downtown, in River North and Lakeshore East. Now, someone looking in River North is also looking in Lincoln Park, and someone looking in the West Loop is also looking in Logan Square,” Galvin said.

According to Galvin, buildings that stand out from the pack offer free ride-sharing pools, third-party services (organized dog walking, food delivery, on-site dry cleaning) and shared amenities such as study rooms, where residents work in open co-working type spaces.

Social hangouts like bocce ball courts and demonstration kitchens are also draws.

“Each building has its own personality and the amenities offered have a big part in shaping that personality,” Galvin said.


Tanveer Ali/Sun-Times

Here’s a look at a few buildings that recently opened.

Spoke in River West

Spoke, a 363-unit apartment community, was opened in December by Morgan Bond Co. on the grounds of the demolished Gonnella Bread Co., 1001 W. Chicago Ave., right off of Milwaukee Avenue’s cyclist-friendly “hipster highway.”

Rents start at $1,795 for a studio, while a two-bedroom unit goes for $3,880. There’s also a two-bedroom, 15th-floor penthouse with a terrace for $6,345.

New Spoke residents get a welcome gift that includes a package of Gonnella breadcrumbs as a nod to the site’s past.

Through the end of February, Spoke is offering two months of free rent on 18-month leases.

Damon Dance, executive vice president of Bond Cos., said the free rent concession “equalizes Spoke’s pricing in a competitive market.”

“The renter today is a savvy consumer, able to gauge the value proposition. We’ve had a lot of people rent on the spot and others who leave to go shopping [around at other apartments] and come back later,” said Dance.

Composed of 15- and 12-story towers anchored by not-yet-announced retail, Spoke is almost one-third leased. Dance said 80 new leases were signed in January and the development on Thursday, Feb. 1, signed its 100th lease.

Rob Bond, president of Bond Cos., credited Spoke’s location and its amenities—which he prefers to call “experiences” — for setting the building apart, more so than the rent concessions.

“If you are a drummer and don’t want to bother your neighbors, we have a padded room for you,” Bond said during a recent tour.

Spoke’s jamming room is just up the hall from a lounge with a billiards table and a stage surrounded by couches carved out of trunks roadies use to haul gear.

In addition to an acre of outdoor space including a pool, hot tub, fire pit, bocce ball court and an enclosed dog run, Spoke’s amenities include a gaming room that doubles as a cinema, an exercise studio with Peloton bikes, a family area for large groups and a demonstration kitchen.

Asked about the impetus for offering so many amenities in one building, Bond said, “Our philosophy with Spoke was to create a lot of unique experiences and within that environment, different groups of people who can gather and enjoy micro-experiences. In that sense, it’s a vertical neighborhood. You make some friends here and you’re more likely to stay.”

Landmark West Loop

A 30-story, 300-unit apartment building at 1035 W. Van Buren St., Landmark West Loop opened in November. The tower is right off of the Eisenhower Expressway and about a block south of the Blue Line UIC-Halsted L station.

John Theodore, Landmark West Loop’s assistant general manager, said the building was just over half full as of Friday, Feb. 2.

Renters can get up to two months free rent on select units across a range of studios, one- and two-bedrooms through March 31.

Rents in Landmark West Loop start at $1,865 and go up to $7,000 for a three-bedroom, 2.5-bath penthouse.

Amenities include a demonstration kitchen, party room, gym and library.

For 25-year-old medical student Adam Miller, having a quiet place to study without having to go to a café factored into his decision to move to Landmark West Loop.

“I live in a studio. And for me to study all day five feet from my bed, I can’t. This is a nice change of pace, I’m here all the time,” Miller said.

The Sinclair in Gold Coast

The Sinclair, a 35-story, 390-unit apartment tower that opened in August, is offering two months free rent on certain apartments, said general manager Kerry Slickmeyer.

The pet-friendly Sinclair, which is half full, boasts what developer Randy Fifield said is the largest rooftop dog run in the city.

Slickmeyer said about 35 percent of residents at The Sinclair own dogs. Some, like Ronak Shah, have two pups.

“The dog park was a big reason we decided to live here. The people, especially the dog owners, get to know each other,” Shah said.

Sally Brandel, another resident, also owns two dogs, including a Corgi that has three legs and sometimes experiences difficulty walking around.

“We are so grateful she can more easily play up here than going all the way downstairs and outside,” Brandel said.

Rents at The Sinclair start at $1,970 for a studio apartment and top out at $8,410 for a three-bedroom, three-bathroom penthouse.

Jewel-Osco is connected to The Sinclair’s building and the CTA Red Line Clark/Lake underground L station is on the same block as the apartments.

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The Western in Bucktown/Logan Square

The Western, a six-story, 44-unit building next to the CTA Blue Line Western L station at 1920 N. Western, opened over the summer along the border of Bucktown and Logan Square.

“We have many of the amenities of the larger luxury buildings throughout the city but on a smaller scale,” said The Western’s developer, Chris Ilekis with Vequity.

The building offers one- and two-bedroom units with rents starting around $1,900 and $2,900, respectively.

On Friday, Ilekis said there are only a few units still available and new residents can get two months of free rent on a 24-month lease through the end of the month.

Amenities in The Western include a rooftop bocce ball court, dog run, video arcade room (Street Fighter, NBA Jam, Pac-Man), a fitness center, an outdoor fireplace and grilling stations.

Although not accessible from inside the building, Ilekis said many view Starbucks at the base of the building as an important amenity.

“It’s a huge benefit for those on the go,” Ilekis said.

Wicker Park Lofts

The six-story, 40-unit Wicker Park Lofts at 1515 W. Haddon St. opened early last year around the corner from the CTA Blue Line Division L station.

As of Friday, Feb. 2, there were two apartments available in the building: a one-bedroom on the fifth floor for $1,925 and a two-bedroom on the fourth floor for $3,000.

High ceilings, radiant floor heating, in-unit laundry and an included DirecTV and Internet package round out the extra offerings.

Developer Mark Sutherland said he’s not offering any concessions in the Wicker Park Lofts, or any other of the 300 apartments he owns in 32 buildings, a mix of new construction and modernized gut rehabs.

“We haven’t had to offer any concessions to date. Presently, my firm has less than 2 percent vacancy in our apartments. That may seem low but we usually have less than 1 percent vacancy,” Sutherland said.

East Village Lofts in West Town

East Village Lofts at 1100 N. Ashland Ave. will keep the façade of a vintage church, though everything else in the five-story, 34-unit apartment building is brand new.

Located a block from the CTA Blue Line Division L station, the lofts are scheduled to open this summer.

The energy efficient building will feature high ceilings, oversized windows and large bedrooms. As an added perk, the building will have a shared roof lounge with a grilling area for residents and their guests to enjoy.

Rent in the lofts will range from $1,600-$1,700 for studios, to $1,800-$1,950 for one bedrooms and $2,400-$2,800 for two bedroom units.

“We think there will be very good demand for these apartments in this location,” Sutherland said.