Two decades, $23M behind deal for Lincoln Park apartments

Heirs of Chicago union boss, Indy 500 champ join Wirtz family as recent sellers

2740-2752 North Hampden Court in Chicago and JAB Real Estate's Frank Campise (JAB Real Estate, Google Maps, Getty)
2740-2752 North Hampden Court in Chicago and JAB Real Estate's Frank Campise (JAB Real Estate, Google Maps, Getty)

It took 22 years for Frank Campise of Chicago’s JAB Real Estate to get the Hampden Court apartments in affluent Lincoln Park.

Not to mention the $23 million paid for the four-story, 159-unit walk-up complex.

Campise got the property from the Geyser family, which owned it for more than 80 years, public records show. The deal marked the second recent move by a prominent local family to unload a long-held multifamily asset in an unpscale neighborhood, coming weeks after the Wirtz family, which owns the Chicago Blackhawks, sold its multifamily portfolio in suburban Evanston.

Campise first made his desire for one of the Lincoln Park neighborhood’s most unique residential buildings known to the Geyser family’s late patriarch, Fred Geyser, decades ago.

Now that he’s got it, he plans to keep it in the JAB portfolio for the long-haul.

“I think all anyone wants in the Chicago market is slow and steady wins the race,” Campise said.
Despite their decades-long ownership of the property, the Geysers might disagree with that sentiment. Fred Geyser was the grandson of the shadowy former Chicago union boss and Indianapolis 500 winner “Umbrella” Mike Boyle, whose Boyle Racing Team cars dominated the famed auto competition in the 1920s and 1930s. Members of Boyle’s team finished in the top six 13 times and won the pole position fo0r the annual race four times, according to an obituary for Geyser and the Indianapolis Star.

The Geyser family declined to comment on the sale of the Lincoln Park property,

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Brokers are noticing more longtime family owners testing Chicago’s multifamily market, motivated in part by rising rents, as well as hikes in interest rates making it more difficult or expensive to get cash out of a property through a sale or taking a loan against it.

“There are a lot of either families or people that have owned properties for a long time that are taking advantage of the market and the prices,” said brokerage Essex Realty Group’s Jim Darrow. “With this pop up in interest rates, if they’re thinking about selling in the next year or two, it might be a good idea to consider selling now before rates go even higher.”

While some investors might view decisions to move on from Chicago-area rentals as the Wirtz and Geyser families have as signs of patient players souring on the market, Campise said such moves aren’t referendums on the city’s long-term prospects.

“The Wirtz family said, ‘Hey we have a lot of Chicago assets, why not de-risk and diversify into some other markets?’” Campise said.

The perception of a lack of political response to unchecked crime and uncertainty surrounding future property tax increases is driving some investors to test Sun Belt and Mountain West cities that have experienced more rapid rent growth during the pandemic than Chicago, he said. That includes Campise’s firm, which has expanded into Salt Lake City and Denver apartment properties recently.

“This short- or medium-term disruption in the Chicago brand gave people a reason to take a breath and say maybe I should have been thinking about entering other markets all along,” Campise said. “We’re still buying in Chicago. We just bought that property and we’re looking at buying more. I love this city, it’s a great city. The long-term trajectory of the city is still positive.”

He wanted the Hampden Court property, built in 1925, for so long because walk-up apartments on properties with dozens of units are rare in Lincoln Park. It offers rents as low as $995 for small studios, making it one of the most affordable in the pricey neighborhood.

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