Sunday, May 18, 2008

And Speaking of "Luxury Condos for the Super-Rich!"...

posted by Elizabeth Fama

Even though the Solstice building currently looks like a paper cut-out...

...on Thursday I attended the Grand Opening, to view a "furnished model." The model is a mock-up, built inside some trailers on the northeast corner of the Solstice property.

This is the reception area, with a looping video showing computer-generated views of the interior and exterior of the building (complete with live-action actors), a scale replica of the building, and interactive computer screens I forgot to look at (I think they show the view from all the units in the building). I did remember to get a glass of white wine, however.

Here's the living room (and dining area) of the 3-bedroom model -- obviously with south views. The terrace is nice (note the grill), but those slanted windows made me dizzy. I'm not kidding. I didn't expect it from the architectural drawings, but in real life they disoriented me for a while until I got used to them, especially in juxtaposition with the straight steel posts of the guard rail on the terrace.

This is the kitchen, and that Sicilian guy is my brother.

The master bedroom mimics a northwest corner apartment. (The windows of the model have backlit digital images of the views, which, if you squint, are quite convincing.) My husband and I agreed that the north side of this building would be most desirable: no slanting windows, and no southern exposure to heat you up and to turn your brown Crate and Barrel sofa pink. In fact, the prices vary depending not just on size (two, three, or four bedrooms), but on elevation and view.

Bedroom One (side of building)

Bedroom Two (front of building)

Typical second bathroom (not master)

Amenities include a pool, a BBQ area, a sun-deck, and a garden on top of the garage structure. The pool is unfortunately not shaped to allow lap swimming, which is a mistake (Jeanne Gang, take note!), given the segment of the market that Solstice will be courting. There will also be a well-equipped health club and a fancy party room.

The price ranges are:

Two bedrooms: (1550 - 2300 sq. ft.) $480k - 1.1 mil
Three bedrooms: (2300 - 2800 sq. ft.) $940k - 1.5 mil
Four bedrooms: (3400 - 4200 sq. ft) $1.7 mil - 2.55 mil

My brother (the Sicilian one) and I disagreed on whether it's realistic to expect that people with that sort of money will choose to move to Hyde Park. I think that compared with what you get on the north side, these apartments may be a better value, and the proximity to the lake and Metra can't be beat. There are several north-side Lab School families waiting to move to the neighborhood, and discouraged by the lack of available houses close to school. I also wouldn't underestimate how much the presence of a Treasure Island in the neighborhood has removed at least one mental hurdle for high-end buyers. He thinks the price for a similar unit in the 1700 E. 56th building right down the block is less than half of that, so no one will pony up that kind of cash.

Word is that three units and two penthouses have already sold. I may be winning this argument.


Zig & Lou said...

Love it.

chicago pop said...

Was that Astro's dog-bed I saw in the third picture?

LPB said...

Some acquaintances -- VP at Morgan Stanley and VP at Leo Burnett who met, married, and procreated -- used to live in the heart of the Gold Coast (within walking distance from the Latin School). But, once their progeny were admitted to the Lab School, they moved down to Hyde Park pronto.

I would suspect there are others in the same situation who would like to live closer to the school.

p.s. Those slanted windows make me feel like I'm in a skybox.

Famac said...

A three bedroom in 1700 is a third of the lowest price listed there.

I think that Penthouse was "sold" to Unger to try to spur another sale.

ScottM said...

I'm betting with your brother.

I really want it build but I can't see the $$$'s working in Hyde Park for what looks to be smallish spaces with fairly mid-end finishes.

I hope I'm wrong, but the current condo glut in the rest of Chicago is going to keep this one from going forward at those prices. (I'd bet they'd need pre-sales of 40-50% before they could line up financing in the current market.)

chicago pop said...

Yeah, I noted the smallish spaces with fairly mid-end finishes, too. Looks like CB2 decor. I was not impressed by the decorator. But the space itself is very interesting.

Famac said...

Maybe I'm picky or just used to my apartment in 1700 - but this unit was designed more like a walk up apartment then a high rise style.

The pricing of the units puts me back to some of my most bitter James confrontations about the MAC Group.

I don't think they know what they are doing.

No one at the showing could tell me how to wash those angled windows. Is the guy supposed to come on your porch and wash them - and how does he do it without getting drenched.

Isn't the Chicago School "form follows function?"

Richard Gill said...

Well, in architecture, as in art, some people will love it, and some will detest it. Discussions about the Solstice's design (both interior and exterior) will, I predict,foreshadow discussions about the Lab School.

Last Friday, there was a reception to honor the Shapiro family for their $10 million gift to the Lab Schools for expansion and modernization. Architect's conceptual renderings were displayed. The ultramodern concepts looked nothing like the present facilities. At the extremes, some will love the proposals, some will detest them.
In any case, the school and its students, and the neighborhood will benefit from the change.

During the reception, it was noted that the new designs for Lab are clear and deliberate breaks from the school's historic appearance. With much humor, that historic appearance was dubbed "Shabby Chic".

More generally, how descriptive Shabby Chic is for the demeanor and preferences of the neighborhood's NIMBYs and advocates of stasis. I say bring on the new, even eyebrow-raising designs such as the Solstice. From Gothic to Domes, from Shabby Chic to Supermodern--In a thriving neighborhood, there is ample room for it all

chicago pop said...

Richard Gill writes: I say bring on the new, even eyebrow-raising designs such as the Solstice. From Gothic to Domes, from Shabby Chic to Supermodern--In a thriving neighborhood, there is ample room for it all

Well said.

HistPresD said...

I hope it gets built. I will not be there to pony up the cash for a unit, but the more the merrier.

I wonder if the slanted windows will not make the final cut. I can only imagine that sitting out on a balcony with those windows would be disorienting at best (I confess to not liking heights either).

Also, there are some huge vintage units in the area with much lower price tags.

All in all, though, I think the renderings look really interesting.

chicago pop said...

Also, there are some huge vintage units in the area with much lower price tags.

I love vintage architecture in Chicago, but the issue, especially regarding the high rises, or even the larger walk-up units, is always the assessments. They can add $100,000s to the price tag over the long term.

Elizabeth Fama said...

Oh, gosh, yes! After I wrote the post I thought, "I never asked what the assessments would be." They can be like a large mortgage. (A.D.R., it's time to log in, bro, and tell us about assessments!)

Famac said...

The assessments for a building like this would have to be at least $1,000/month not to be irresponsible. The costs of running large buildings with doorstaff and elevators are huge.

A common trick in the new condo market is to subsidize the assessment to fool people into buying, then the association is behind the 8 ball from day one.

On the window subject, it also occured to me that washing them from the interior would be very very difficult. You certainly can't climb up them to wash them. So if you use a long squeegee, someone would have be waiting with towels at the bottom to catch the water.

chicago pop said...

When I mentioned assessments, what I was thinking about was in fact the likelihood that they would be hihger were one to be a vintage unit in one of the nice older buildings.

Some of the nice 3-4 bedroom flats in the neighborhood come with assessments $2,-3,000 and up. Want a vintage high-rise? Start thinking $6,000, with occasional special assessments of $20-50,000.

So in that light, Solstice may be a deal.

Elizabeth Fama said...

But since I haven't done my homework, we don't yet know...

Famac said...

I should have fleshed my post out more. Assessments in the South Loop for 3 bedrooms are over $1,000.

Its kind of a Happy Meal arguement - assessments are huge in vintage high rises in Hyde Park, but prices are super cheap. Even more so in Co-Ops. The price/square foot should come out the same.

Another missing part of the discussion so far is property taxes. Pay $1MM+ for a condo in Solstice and wait for that $10,000 property tax bill in the mail.

Assessments may be huge in vintage high rises, but at least they are going towards services you recieve.

In Hyde Park, city services are pretty minimal (police is largely provided by the University, garbage collection is independently contracted, motorcycles on LSD are free of charge) so minimizing your tax bill is actually one of the big benefits of HP high rise living versus the South Loop or Solstice.

HP needs to compete on price to win residents, it doesn't have the ammenities to compete with better addresses commanding that price point.

If this development was on 58th and Kenwood, you could easily fetch these prices - but next to Brett Harte and Cornell Ave?

idiotslowdown said...

I think you guys missed the whole point of some of the features of this building. The south windows are slanted so that the building shades itself during the summer, when the sun is relatively higher in the sky, but allows direct sunlight to come in when the sun is lower during the winter. They're an environmental feature. So no, the south-facing units will not broil your cheesy furniture. Almost everything about the building (okay, maybe not the colors) embodies "form follows function" much better than the earlier uncomfortable and energy-hogging Chicago School buildings ever did.

I'm not saying that the prices are realistic, I'm just saying there are actually very good reasons for those windows.

Famac said...

I got the point of the windows, at least on paper. If that design is effective as advertised (and I don't think it is) why isn't it on every new builiding going up?

The sun is way over the buildings -I guess I just don't understand how angling the windows 15 degrees can make that big of a difference.

But it neither here nor there because that place isn't going up.

Elizabeth Fama said...

idiotslowdown, I understand the architect's environmental claim of the slanted windows, but in fact when you're in the model you realize that the overhang shades the interior; the angle of the windows is irrelevant. You would have the same amount of shading if the glass was plumb. The slant is just an aesthetic feature -- it provides more interior space at the ceiling, I suppose. But the actual shading is not achieved by the angle of the windows.

Elizabeth Fama said...

To be more clear: if you were to install the windows straight up and down, making sure that they still meet the same spot on the floor that they currently do, you would achieve the same heating/cooling effect. (If you make them plumb from where they currently meet the ceiling, on the other hand, the room would be bigger by a few feet or more, but you'd lose the shading effect of the overhang. I didn't make that clear in the last comment when I said they could be plumb and achieve the same goal. I should have said, "Make them straight from the floor up.")

chicago pop said...

I'm a huge promoter of green architecture. Thing is it's all so new, my sense is we're still trying to figure out what really works.

Interesting suggestion that the slanted glass may be an aesthetic feature; what matters is the overhang, which functions as an awning, which some of Chicago's earliest post-Fire buildings utilized to cool themselves, in addition to recessed windows. It's an old idea, and makes sense in new buildings.

Famac said...

The flip side to the whole green claim of these windows is in the winter, you want the sun to heat the place. Its winter half the year(or more).

My apartment doesn't require heat during the winter days.

If apartments in Solstice started at $500 like the sign says, they would be selling units.

The unsold Penthouse at 1600 Prarie where my fried Pete lives is the same price as the high end units in a building next to Brett Harte.

30th floor penthouse, or apartment on Cornell next to a dump of an old Hotel. Hmmm... the math eludes me.

chicago pop said...


That six months of the year you mention is not when Com-Ed has the peaks that blow its substations and get everyone concerned about frying the grid.

If you want to save energy from a building, or from the buildings sector of the US economy generally, which is the largest single consumer of juice, (and generator of CO2) you want to think seriously about how to keep them cool without using as much electricity. That's what the angled facades are intended to do.

There are all sorts of technical tricks to passive solar, and a lot of it is pretty low tech, beginning with facing the windows and primary living areas of your building southward. It also helps to shade them. Trees are one way. This represents a different approach. I presume Stern Gang have done their homework, but you can go here to double check them.

Here's what Studio Gang themselves have to say about the passive heating and cooling design of the building. (They're shooting for LEED Silver certification, the second highest ranking, and in order to get LEED certified at any level you have to be able to demonstrate some energy savings from the building design, use of renewables, etc. )

Solstice on the Park, a 26-story residential tower, is literally shaped by solar access. Its living spaces are chiseled to create a ‘self-shaded’ south-facing surface in response to summer sun, making the building specific to its climate and sun angles. By making latitude into a visible feature for the fa├žade and its reason-to-be, the project challenges the current notion of pure iconography and symbolism in tall buildings. With its surface designed precisely to the optimum angle (71 degrees) for Chicago’s latitude, the glass allows sun to enter the apartments during winter for passive solar warming and keeps it out during the summer to reduce air-conditioning usage.

chicago pop said...

I said "Stern Gang" in the previous comment, which is frickin' ridiculous, that was one of the Jewish anti-colonial terrorist groups in Palestine back in the 40s -- so it's Israel's 60th and all that and I got my wires crossed ... OK, anyway, STUDIO GANG...