The art of selling a unit: Tween rooms, sky lounges are latest salvos in the amenity wars

Hoping to attract new tenants, Chicago developers are including wild and unusual amenity packages with their new buildings

Oct.October 23, 2018 01:00 PM

Clockwise from top-left: The amenity deck planned at 210 North Carpenter, ELEVATE Lincoln Park, the view from the “sky lounge” at 727 West Madison, and L Logan Square

There’s a “namaste nook” for private yoga lessons, a single-stall hair salon and a grill deck with rain-resistant widescreen TVs suspended above each grate.

But if residents of the Cooper at Southbank get bored of all that, they can always start a bluegrass quintet.

“We wanted to create that space for artists and musicians to come and explore a little bit,” said Lendlease project director Justin Patwin inside the building’s “jam room,” a carpeted lounge with Yamaha guitars and bongo drums hanging from the walls. Residents there can spin a John Coltrane album or strum a banjo while looking out over the Downtown skyline.

The Cooper, 720 South Wells Street, where studio apartment rents start around $1,900 per month, is the latest in a string of new residential buildings pressured to push the envelope with their amenity packages.

As the skyline fills with towers heaping hundreds of new units into the tip-top of the city’s red-hot apartment market,  it’s become a de-facto requirement for developers to equip their leasing teams with attention-getting building features designed to justify their rising rents.

Like the Cooper, here are seven other fierce residential competitors in the so-called “amenity arms race” to hit the market since last year, plus an office building that’s following suit.

Related Midwest | One Bennett Park | A “tween room”

One Bennett Park’s “tween room”

The game-filled children’s room is a bonus for parents who live in One Bennett Park, Related Midwest’s Robert A.M Stern-designed condo-and-apartment tower nearing completion 451 East Grand Avenue in Streeterville.

Then there’s the “tween room,” a space aimed exclusively at the building’s 10-to-13-year-old residents. The room is “designed for gaming, lounging or socializing” with “multiple televisions, billiards and modular furniture,” according to a spokesperson.

Condo owners at One Bennett Park will also have access to a “cordial room,” a bar space with oak-paneled lockers for residents to store aged spirits.

One-bedroom apartments currently start at $3,705.

Bond Companies | Spoke | A “performance lounge”

Spoke complex’s music room

Like the Cooper at Southbank, the 363-unit Spoke complex that opened last year at 728 North Morgan Street also boasts a music room with grabbable band equipment. But Spoke’s “performance lounge” also includes a stage and a soundproof recording studio.

There’s also an acre-sized amenity deck, which includes a pool, private cabanas, fire pits, a bocce ball court and a “hydrotherapy spa.”

Studios start at $1,525.

Baker Development Corp. | ELEVATE Lincoln Park | A “rooftop wellness area”

The 24-hour gym on the roof of the Solomon Cordwell Buenz-designed ELEVATE, 930 West Altgeld Street, lets residents wheel equipment outside so they can jog or spin in full view of Downtown. The entire penthouse level, one of two amenity decks in the 191-unit building, is also wrapped in “smart windows” that automatically dim based on sunlight conditions.

Studios start at $2,075.

Property Markets Group | L Logan Square | A train on the roof

A year after Property Markets Group opened its 120-unit apartment building at 2211 North Milwaukee Avenue, the New York-based firm spent $200,000 to buy a an “L” car from the CTA and retrofit it on its rooftop amenity deck. The firm even changed the name of the building, originally called “X Logan Square,” to highlight the new feature.

“It’s the most popular amenity we have in the portfolio,” Property Markets Group principal Noah Gottlieb said of the car. “It’s designed for gathering with friends and all social occasions.”

The building is completely leased, according to its website.

Optima, Inc. | Optima Signature | A 40-yard dash track

Optima Signature’s basketball court

Fitness centers come standard in most new residential high-rises, but few developers can lay claim to a full-size basketball court. The 57-story Optima Signature, which opened last year at 220 East Illinois Street in Streeterville, also has a children’s playground, bocce and squash courts, a “cold-plunge shower” and three saunas. More intense competitors can time themselves on a 40-yard dash track.

One-bedroom apartments start at $2,950.

F&F Realty and Fifield Realty Co. | 727 West Madison | The “Sky Lounge”

When Fifield and F&F started leasing apartments this month for the 492-unit tower it’s finishing at 727 West Madison Street at the entrance to the West Loop, prospective tenants got a simple proposition: hang out on the top floor of the tallest building in the neighborhood.

The owners haven’t announced any features or programming for its “sky lounge,” but it’s hired Studio K, the interior designer for restaurants including Girl & the Goat, to fill in the details.

Studios start at $1,735.

Property Markets Group | X Chicago | “Media beds”

X Chicago’s “media beds”

The amenity deck at X Chicago, 710 West 14th Street, invites residents to crawl into bed and stare up at a pair of ceiling-mounted TVs. The 100-unit apartment complex, completed earlier this year by Property Markets Group, also includes a co-working space, “outdoor amphitheater,” fire pit and “industrial kitchen,” according to listings. Studios start at $1,425.

Sterling Bay | 210 North Carpenter | An office swimming pool

Residential developers aren’t the only ones under pressure to outfit their buildings with extravagant lounge-and-leisure spaces. Eyeing a potential Google lease in its new 12-story Fulton Market complex, Sterling Bay hired Solomon Cordwell Buenz to design an amenity deck worthy of Silicon Valley.

The floor will include a “big fitness component” with a yoga studio and a pool big enough for employees to swim laps during their lunch breaks, SCB design principal Jay Longo said.

The building will also boast a “huge outdoor roof deck” with barbecue pits and lawn bocce courts, some of the same features showing up on apartment tower rooftops around the city, Longo said.

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