Luxury Chicago Condos Triple Threat

What a crime these days.  How some of these buildings have the audacity to include the word “luxury” in their advertising. Here's exactly what to consider when buying a luxury condo in Chicago.

If you’re sniffing-out luxury Chicago condos for sale, remain mindful of these three telling traits, which differentiate the true luxury apartments from the flakes.  Although there may be additional features worthy of attention in the luxury condo arena—such as cabinets and floors—this tender triad compromises the core DNA:

  1. Developer
  2. Architect
  3. Construction

Let’s illuminate more on the architects for a moment; and why this trait is important to getting the most value out of your next downtown Chicago home purchase.

Yes, whether you like it or not, the architect designing the project is key.

For instance, the world-renowned architectural firm of Skidmore, Owings and Merrill was pivotal in designing many of the finest structures, that are the envy of aspiring architects even to this day.

Most notably, a design architect by the name of Adrian Smith was responsible for designing Trump Tower Chicago Hotel & Residences.  Adrian Smith was also responsible for designing the Burj Khalifa in Dubai.  Adrian Smith is on his own these days; nevertheless, he is a product of the Skidmore, Owings and Merrill ecosystem.

Another example is design architect Lucien Lagrange—a French born Chicago architect.  You would run out of fingers and toes if you tried to count the number of luxury condo structures in Chicago that Lucien is responsible for.

Here’s a snippet of some of the luxury condo developments Lucien designed in Chicago alone: The Ritz Carlton Residences, The Waldorf Astoria (formerly The Elysian), Lincoln Park 2520, Ten East Delaware, The Pearson, The Pinnacle, The Fordham, 65 East Goethe and Park Tower—just to name a few.

Pop quiz: where did Lucien LaGrange earn his stripes?

If you guessed Skidmore, Owings and Merrill, then you are correct.  Indeed, Lucien base-jumped off the mountain of a reputation that he earned while at Skidmore, Owings and Merrill; prior to launching his solo career.

Lastly, it would be appropriate to include Chicago architect Solomon, Cordwell & Buenz in this discussion because they were responsible for the all-glass design of the luxury condo residences at The Legacy (60 East Monroe); and 340 on the Park (340 East Randolph).

...and New York architectural firm Kohn Pedersen Fox, which designed the residences at 900 N. Michigan (aka. Four Seasons Hotel/Bloomingdales Building) in downtown Chicago.

Undoubtedly, these buildings rank in the category of luxury Chicago condos too.

Certainly, there are other architectural firms—but not many—designing what could be classified as luxury; or high quality.

One such example is Pappageorge/Haymes Architects.  Pappageorge/Haymes designed a few lesser-known but, nevertheless, premier luxury locations in downtown Chicago.  One located in Streeterville at 600 N. Lakeshore Drive; and the other located in Museum Park at 1211 S. Prairie.

The point to nail down is…

If you’re serious about investing your time and (hard earned!) money in buying a luxury Chicago condo, then remain aware of why some of these buildings hold their value better than others—long term.

Which leads us to the second, and most important trait, distinguishing true luxury Chicago condos from the “wanna-be’s” who merely place the word luxury in their ad.

That trait is: the developer.

Who was the developer on the project?

The reason why this fact remains important is because you’ll find very few developers actually capable of hiring top rated firms, to create the final product that you'll ultimately own.  And the reason for this is because the top rated firms aren’t cheap. Therefore, most developers can’t justify spending the money because their exit price (the price you as the buyer will pay) is cost prohibitive.  In other words, the numbers will not work.

Hiring a Kohn Pederson Fox or an Adrian Smith architects is not practical for most developers.  The final sales price on the condo units will have to be many times higher than the average condo building.

And unless a developer has a track record demonstrating that he/she can (i) not only build the structure; but (ii) sell the units at a price threshold that will return investment to the project's banker and the investors, all while (iii) being priced at realistically affordable buyer bid levels—then the very notion of that project will be dead on arrival.

An untenable dream doodled on a napkin.

Therefore, if you plan on protecting your wealth by purchasing a true luxury condo in downtown Chicago, then it pays to consider properties that these developers: Donald Trump, Fordham Company and Magellan Group have developed—alongside hiring the architects I mentioned above.

Indeed, there are other good developers out there.  One way or another, a good developer will not skimp on the architect. The last item a good developer will assure happens: likewise, it’s the third and final trait rightfully distinguishing luxury Chicago condos from the rest…

Answer—the construction company.

Specifically, we’re alluding to the concrete and foundation work. As a quick side note, Lend Lease was the construction manager on most all big projects; including Trump Tower Chicago.

Let’s face it folks.

If you’re talking about luxury Chicago condos, then you’re admittedly fond of tall buildings.  And to build these structures—up to say 30 floors—there are a handful of companies in Chicago that can build them properly.  But when you start elevating above 30 floors (and especially above 50 floors) there are only two contractors in Chicago often called upon to build a high-end product: McHugh Construction or Walsh Construction.

And the proof is in the pudding.

If you look at any premier structure in Chicago, you shall find that either McHugh or Walsh laid that foundation.  Likewise, both Walsh and McHugh offer construction management services in the event a developer chooses not to hire Lend Lease.

More importantly, these firms are so big and busy; it’s difficult to assure you have their best crews at hand.  It’s yet another reason to initially consider the developer and the architect when you buy a luxury condo in Chicago: because the top developers and top architects choose to build structures that are steps above the rest.

Hence, for obvious reasons, the top crews from Walsh or McHugh are then appointed to execute the timely construction of these premier structures: quality attracts quality.

And because downtown Chicago is a playground for tall buildings, it attracts the world’s top developers; like that of Donald Trump.  Along with many of the world’s finest architects.

For now, the three traits to collectively consider when buying luxury Chicago condos are the: architect, developer and construction company.  If you wish to expertly enter the hunt for luxury Chicago condos, apartments or homes, feel free to hire HK.

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