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The Portlandia-fication of Downtown Chicago

The Portlandia-fication of Downtown Chicago

Downtown Chicago is in the midst of a rental boom, with more than 3,000 apartments expected to come online by the end of the year—a record that may last only until 2016, when another 5,000 apartments are on track to arrive.

Among the hot neighborhoods is River North, where Portland, Oregon-based Gerding Edlen teamed up with Chicago’s Structure Management Midwest to help the West Coast developer make its local debut: a $68 million, 25-story tower with 188 luxury apartments. Dubbed Jones Chicago, the building first appeared in renderings by Hartshorne Plunkard Architects (HPA) in 2007. The recession “halted those plans, preserving a surface parking lot at 220 W. Illinois Street for another seven years. General contractors Lend Lease topped out in December, and the building finally opened for tenants in March.

The project returned to find a different River North than when it first planned to build in the area. Although the developer’s motto—“people, planet, prosperity”—has drawn the inevitable references to Portlandia, its Chicago offering is decidedly luxe for many denizens of that fictionalized Pacific Northwest. Studios start at $1,825, while a one bedroom with a den costs $2,675 per month.

Still, The Jones boasts some unique flourishes that its developers hope will bring a Portland touch to “the design-forward, entrepreneurial values” of the neighborhood, which has in recent years replaced rundown warehouses with high-tech offices and upscale lofts. Smart thermostats from Google-owned Nest regulate the exposed-concrete units, while an integrated building HVAC system diverts heat pump condensation to irrigate native plants on the third-floor pool deck. A hybrid window-wall system conceals massive shear walls behind a glassy street frontage, helping the energy-efficient building on its way to achieving LEED Gold certification.

A veritable parking garage for cyclists can hold 135 bikes while a standard parking structure contains spots for 154 cars, as well as 1,700 square feet of ground-level retail space. Dog owners are invited to a private dog parklet on the sixth floor, complete with a dog wash, astroturf, and heat lamps for year-round use.

Though the building in a sense tells the story of the new River North—pricey, post-industrial, in-demand—its development also includes the rehabilitation of a local landmark. An 1887 firehouse abuts the new tower, awaiting a new tenant now that HPA and the Jones team have stabilized it, reaping historic preservation incentives in the process. The handsome 19th century facade inspired an abstract pattern on the new building: Metal patterns concealing concrete panels on the parking deck are perforated with shapes adapted from the firehouse.

Gerding Edlen also hopes to open a 240-unit, $76 million rental building at 625 W. Division Street in the fall. That building will be LEED Gold certified, according to the developers, and will also create 48 units of affordable housing (only half are required to be on site).

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