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4 Reasons Not To Ignore Uptown Real Estate

During the 1920s, Uptown was one of Chicago's most vibrant commercial and residential districts. After World War II, the neighborhood became home to a diverse population of low-income renters and scores of vacant and rundown buildings.

Today, Uptown's fortunes are on the upswing and real estate investors are taking notice.

CedarSt Companies Co-Founder and Managing Partner Alex Samoylovich and Booth Hansen Principal George Halik
CedarSt Cos. co-founder and Managing Partner Alex Samoylovich and Booth Hansen principal George Halik

CedarSt Cos. co-founder and Managing Partner Alex Samoylovich said his firm was drawn to the neighborhood six years ago by its architectural character.

"There's a uniqueness to Uptown's architecture that can't be replicated. We found it to be a very good time, post-recession, to enter the market," Samoylovich said.

CedarSt is now the most active developer in Uptown.

Samoylovich said the neighborhood has untapped potential. Here are four factors that have laid the foundation for renewed interest in Uptown.

1. An Abundance Of Old Buildings

The Lawrence House in Chicago's Uptown neighborhood was redeveloped by CedarSt Companies
The Lawrence House

CedarSt built its reputation as an adaptive reuse specialist in Uptown with its Flats line of micro-apartments. The largest delivered to date is Lawrence House, a 344-unit property that opened in 2016. CedarSt has an even bigger project in the pipeline: a redevelopment of the former Consolidated Life Insurance building at 5050 North Broadway. The firm is redeveloping that building into 714 apartments.

"Flats is the Soho House of apartments, with the price point of Target," Samoylovich said.

Samoylovich said Uptown buildings have good bones that lend themselves well to multifamily repositionings with amenity-rich environments. Lawrence House has a rooftop deck, a boxing gym, a swimming pool, a bar and a diner.

The neighborhood itself also serves as an amenity. Argyle Street is home to Chicago's Vietnamese community. Uptown's eastern border is the lakefront, and the neighborhood is bounded by more affluent Wrigleyville, Edgewater and Lakeview.

2. Public Transit Access

Chicato Transit Authority's Wilson Avenue Red/Purple Line 'L' Station
CTA completed a major overhaul of the Wilson Avenue Red/Purple Line 'L' station in Uptown.

Chicago Transit Authority completed a $203M renovation of the Wilson Avenue Red/Purple Line 'L' station last year, modernizing platforms and the stationhouse. Work to modernize the Lawrence and Argyle stations as part of CTA's overhaul of the Red and Purple Lines is set to start next year.

These three lines intersect Uptown, and the renovations to the stations are intended to meet the demand of a growing population and make the stations compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act.

CTA also has several bus lines directly connecting the neighborhood to downtown, via Lake Shore Drive.

3. Untapped Potential As An Entertainment District

Uptown Theatre, Chicago
Uptown Theatre, Chicago

The landmark Uptown Theatre used to anchor a thriving live entertainment district but has been vacant for nearly 37 years and has fallen into severe disrepair. Preservationists have called on the city to prioritize a restoration of the Uptown, and Mayor Rahm Emanuel called for the creation of an Uptown music district anchored by the Uptown, the nearby Riviera Theatre and Aragon Ballroom, and the historic Green Mill Cocktail Lounge.

But any restoration of the Uptown Theatre will need a combination of public and private funding and previous attempts to restore the theater fell apart. Samoylovich said a restoration of the Uptown would kick-start a revitalization of the neighborhood, similar to how restoring Brooklyn's Paramount Theatre is leading to renewed interest in Brooklyn, New York. Samoylovich said the Uptown is one of the defining landmarks of the neighborhood and it cannot afford to fall into further decay.

4. Ground-Up Development Has Arrived

Eight Eleven Uptown, Chicago
A rendering of JDL Development's Eight Eleven Uptown

Samoylovich said new construction in Uptown was nearly nonexistent over the past 30 years. But projects like Wilson Yards prove there is appetite for ground-up development. Four new developments are expected to break ground in Uptown this year, including a seven-story, 110-unit apartment building from CedarSt at 1050 West Wilson.

Big names are also looking to build in Uptown. Clayco is planning a 12-story development at 975 West Wilson featuring 150 units and ground-level retail. JDL Development was issued a full construction permit for Eight Eleven Uptown, a 373-unit apartment project, in June.

Samoylovich said recent apartment deliveries in Uptown were absorbed at a record pace, suggesting the development cycle in Uptown is only beginning.

"We're in the third inning here," Samoylovich said.

Hear from Samoylovich at Bisnow's Hottest Submarkets event, April 25 at Oak Brook Place.