Not too long ago, the SOHO condominium and townhouse development in Oak Park seemed to represent all that was wrong with the local real estate market. The ambitious project was the brainchild of local architect John Schiess and developer Alex Troyanovsky, who originally purposed an all-townhome development at the corner of South Boulevard and Home Avenue (South-Home, hence SOHO). Hoping to avoid the problems of the real estate recession, village trustees instead approved a mixed-used development that would include condos and retail space as well as a townhome development. Construction began in 2009.
Anyone who drove by the project the last few years knows that mixed-use wasn't enough to help the development weather the recession. Unfinished construction and a chain link fence stood as stark reminders that the local appetite for development crashed along with the national real estate market. The 2011 failure of George Washington Savings and Loan, the bank that funded the project, left it unfunded and incomplete with only four of 15 planned condominiums finished and 17 planned townhomes that were never built.
Time for a turnaround
Rumors of the return of real estate have been building, however, and a new developer's interest in the SOHO project may just signal that good times are on the horizon. Art Gurevich and Mark Boldun's SOHO Development LLC has taken over the SOHO project and is already at work preparing condominiums for occupancy. Local real estate firm Better Homes and Gardens/Gloor Realty competed against other local and Chicago-based realty companies to win the exclusive listing of the properties.
Rich C. Gloor, managing broker and owner of Better Homes, thinks Gloor Realty's partnership with the development group is poised for success.
"The townhouse and condo market is sort of their niche," Gloor said. "They've done a lot of work on similar projects in the city and other suburbs. It's a great thing for the village that they're taking over."
When the bottom fell out of the market, the bulk of the construction on the SOHO condominiums was already complete. SOHO had already received village approval to do finishing work on the condominiums and Gloor agent Jan Raspatello re-listed eight condominiums on the market the first week of April this year. According to Gloor, model condos are already staged, and the work needed to prepare the others for occupancy is minimal.
"In the condos, the walls are already dry-walled and the floors are in," he said. "The contractors are just working to finish out the details. They're putting in hardwood floors and countertops and working full speed to get everything finished out."
Gloor expects that there is plenty of demand for the condos and that interested buyers will want to get in early to customize their units. "The models are already complete and we'll be holding open houses on Saturdays and Sundays from noon to 2 and by appointment. Those units could close anytime. Within two months, all of the condos should be complete."
Village Planner Craig Failor helped SOHO Development LLC resubmit the building plans previously approved in 2008 for the townhome development. "There weren't any major issues because the plans had already been approved. Once they got through the planning process, they were just waiting on the building permits."
Gurevich says the building permits were issued on April 4, and work began that day. "We got our building permits to build 10 townhomes at first. Once we finish that stage, we hope to go back to build the remaining seven. It should take about 3-4 months to finish the construction."
What to Expect
Townhomes and condos will both sport premium finishes, Gurevich says. "Everything will be top of the line. We're using hardwood floors throughout, stone counters, designer tiles and cabinets. We're using the same quality materials and workmanship that we use in our Lincoln Park projects that are selling in the $600,000 range."
The SOHO units will costs considerably less than their city-comparables. One-bedroom condos should start around $174,500, with two-bedroom units expected to run in the low- to mid-$300,000 range.
Condo plans range from 700-square-foot, one-bedroom units to 1,400-square-foot, two-bedroom units with 2 1/2 baths. Gurevich stresses that all of the condos will have large living spaces.
The townhomes have approximately 2,400 square feet for each three-bedroom, 3 1/2-bath unit. With private rooftop outdoor spaces and two-car garages, the townhouses provide the suburban amenities of easy, off-street parking with urban outdoor space.
Gurevich feels the project will have what it takes to draw in today's buyers. "We're very excited to be working in a community like Oak Park. It's a very high-quality project, inside and out. That high quality and a great location where you can walk to everything are what really appeals to people today."
Signaling a brighter future
While neighbors of the development may be hopeful that the redevelopment of SOHO means finally saying goodbye to a gravel lot and construction debris, it remains to be seen what the renewal of interest in SOHO means for the village. Gloor is optimistic that the re-development of SOHO signals a rejuvenated condo market.
"For certain, things are coming back in Oak Park and in the Chicago market. I've been at open houses with developers and representatives of banks, and there are lots of property developers interested in these projects and looking for opportunities like this in Oak Park. There's an inventory issue now, and, timing–wise, it couldn't be better. Everyone else is looking to get into development now."
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