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Co-Living Developer Common Enters Chicago

Co-living is growing on the coasts as an alternative for renters seeking affordable housing, especially millennials. With the average rent for a one-bedroom apartment in River North now at $2,175/month, can co-living find a foothold in Chicago?

Common Damen, Chicago
Common Damen, Chicago

Co-living startup Common believes Chicago is a ripe market for co-living to take hold and just opened Common Damen, which has three four-bedroom suites at 2048 West Chicago Ave. in Ukrainian Village. Common Director of Real Estate Acquisitions Sandy Albert said Ukrainian Village had the walkability, access to public transit, neighborhood retail, proximity to nightlife and job and employment centers the firm was looking for in a market.

The ability to command rents in booming residential markets was another draw. According to data from Apartments.com, the average rent for a three-bedroom in Chicago is $2,177/month. Developers who cannot find sites in River North, downtown or the West Loop are moving into neighborhoods like West Town, Logan Square, Wicker Park and Ukrainian Village at a fast clip.

"I didn't need to be sold on the market," Albert said.

What Common did not have was a building. Enter Golden Mean founder and CEO David Herrera, a lifelong Ukrainian Village resident and treasurer of the Ukrainian Village Neighbors Association, who made the transition from investment banking to real estate. Herrera built the building as a spec offering, and planned on taking the top floor for himself.

Herrera had the other two floors marketed for lease when he met Common. After a tour of the property, the seeds were sown for a deal for the entire building.

Common Damen, Chicago
A living room in one of Common Damen's apartments.

Hererra said he has a long-term lease with Common for the building, with an option to renew. Common rents out the bedrooms in the units with prices ranging from $1,225/month to $1,675/month, depending on the size of the rooms. The higher priced bedrooms have a private deck and a bath in-suite and can be rented by couples. Common offers eight- and 12-month leases to give tenants flexibility in the lengths of their stays.

The apartments come fully furnished with cable, high-speed WiFi, in-unit laundry, cleaning service, shared roof deck space and an on-site group leader who organizes events. Common replaces communal home supplies on a regular basis and has cleaning crews come in weekly to clean the apartments. Tenants have keyless entry to the building and their units.

Common Damen, Chicago
A kitchen in one of Common Damen's apartments.

Albert said Common looks at its homes from a user experience standpoint and tries not to skimp on space.

"We want to make sure the space we're offering is sufficient for the people in a suite."

Common Damen is only the beginning for Common in Chicago. Albert said the firm is working on two other locations, part of an aggressive national expansion that will result in 1,500 beds by 2018.

A previous version of this story mentioned that rents ranged from from $1,125/month to $1,675/month, with lease terms of three, six and 12 months. Rents start at $1,225/month and Common offers eight- and 12-month leases.