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Luxury Bucktown Condos Sell Well, But Are Young People Priced Out?

By: Alisa Hauser

BUCKTOWN —  The future of the northeast corner of Hermitage and North avenues in Bucktown is moving at a fast clip, with buyers already secured for the priciest units in a 17-unit luxury condo development planned for the site.

 

Listing agent Jennifer Mills described the buyers as "a nice mix of people who are familiar with the area: a couple singles, a couple families, a couple of empty-nesters, just every [buyer] profile type you'd expect."

 

But one community leader said the development, where units go for as much as $775,000, is an example of how people of more modest means are having difficulty buying in the neighborhood.

 

"Young people need a chance to get into the market. What ever happened to the $250,000 condo?" said Steve Jensen, president of the Bucktown Community Organization.

 

"Why does everything have to be stainless steel and granite and ultra-luxury? What ever happened to Formica countertops?" said Jensen. "Prices like $650,000 for a condo does not make it easy for others wanting to move here."

 

With the tiny former Citgo station still intact at Hermitage and North, demolishing and construction has yet to begin on the 18,000-square-foot lot, which soon will be home to a four-story complex at 1611 N. Hermitage Ave. dubbed "Hermitage Sixteen11."

 

The upscale building from local developer Sedgwick Properties will contain either one or two retail storefronts on the ground level and 17 three-bedroom, two-bath condos on the second through fourth floors ranging from $650,000 to $775,000.

 

Expected to be complete by January, the buiding's floor plans boast private elevator access, attached heated garages, "lavish master suites," 10-foot high ceilings, stainless steel kitchen appliances and private decks ranging from 250 to 1,000 square feet.

 

As of July 1, Mills said that the building is "50 percent sold" with eight of 17 condos having found buyers. Mills said the remaining nine units range from $650,000 to $700,000 and are on the second and third floors.

 

Mills said the five fourth-floor penthouses were among the first to find buyers, a fact she attributed to "a definite lack of supply [of homes] with a high demand and the fact nothing like this is going to be built in the near future."

 

As of June 23, the average price of condos or attached homes on the market in Wicker Park or Bucktown was $441,130, according to Realtor Eva Bergant. There were 76 condos or attached homes listed, ranging from $189,900 to $1.37 million, Bergant said on her blog.

 

Prices are robust in the area, with the average condo price about 7 percent more than last year's, but Sedgwick's new development could have been residential apartment units instead of condos.

 

Near the close of last year, Sedgwick Properties met with members of the Bucktown Community Organization seeking its blessing on a zoning change that would have allowed for higher density and more than 30 apartment rental units in the corner space.

 

When neighbors and Ald. Scott Waguespack (32nd) expressed concern about too much density — with residents voting 18-15 against a zoning change that would have allowed for the 30 residential units —  Jensen said the developers "went back to the well-known Plan B and built within the existing commercial zoning."

 

"[Sedgwick Properties] reverted back to large 1,600-square-feet luxury units rather than transit-oriented smaller and more affordable rentals. It just goes to show money talks, Jensen said.

 

Jensen said his group understands that "the developers need to make money," but described such developments as "quick and easy money for a developer."

 

"I'm not sure its sustainable for a long time," Jensen said, describing such developments as "the $16 gallon of milk at Fox & Obel or Jimmy Choo shoes" of real estate.

 

Mills told DNAinfo.com Chicago that she believes Hermitage Sixteen11 is "priced comparably" with other new developments in the area that also offer "design, fine finishes and location."

 

She pointed out Urban Treehouse on the southeast corner of Cortland and Hermitage, about two blocks north of 1611 N. Hermitage Ave. Located in a former convent, the seven condos ranging in price from $575,800 to $669,800 sold out within a few months, with one unit finding a buyer at 104 percent of its list price on its first day on the market, according to a March real estate report.

 

Comparing Hermitage Sixteen11 to the Urban Treehouse, Mills said, "Though [the Treehouse] is super cool, it doesn't have an elevator or attached garage parking and incredible outdoor space."

 

Mills said that the market is "on an uptick right now," which means "people are willing to take the risk and buy off of the plans because it's exactly what they want. They get to customize."

 

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