Urban Real Estate again ranks as New Eastside’s number one real estate brokerage

By Urban Real Estate

Published March 13, 2018

The New Eastside’s very own Urban Real Estate is again the number one real estate office in our community, selling over $23 million in our neighborhood. The data, compiled by the regional Multiple Listing Service, Midwest Real Estate Data (MRED), counts transactions and dollars, to determine each office’s rank, ranking Urban Real Estate at the very top.

“The New Eastside is home to many of us,” said Matt Farrell, Urban Real Estate’s managing partner and a resident of Harbor Point. “We live, work and play here; to see our community grow, flourish and evolve into a gem that attracts buyers from across the city and around the globe is incredible. We show our clients many neighborhoods, but the charm and people here are second to none.”

Senior partner Michael Emery, also with Farrell since the company’s founding over a decade ago, recounts clients he has worked with fondly. “Over the years, there is nothing more gratifying than helping my neighbors buy thoughtfully, sell well and rent to wonderful new neighbors,” he said. Emery, a long-time resident at 400 E. Randolph, where Urban Real Estate offices are located, believes the New Eastside is special because of the impeccable neighbors and tremendous staff at each building. “We show properties all day long, and the care each property takes in looking top-notch, paired with the building staff that care for our needs, makes this a unique community to call home.”

With nearly 30 trusted real estate brokers, and more than eight languages spoken fluently within their office, Urban continues to raise the bar with unique services including its own Mercedes-Benz fleet to take clients to showings, and an international relocation program that hosts buyers coming to town looking for their next investment.

“Urban has maintained a special place in New Eastside. We couldn’t be more grateful to our neighbors and look forward to being their number one choice again in 2018,” Farrell says.

To learn more about properties for sale, rent or how to begin your own process, visit UrbanRealEstate.com or call (312) 528-9200, or just stop by the office at 400 E. Randolph St.

Plans for new Lakeshore East high rises halted by Alderman

By Taylor Hartz

Staff Writer
Dec. 15, 2017

Ald. Brendan Reilly (42nd) rejected the proposed development of three buildings in Lakeshore East  known as the “IJKL” parcels on Dec. 13.


The highrises, proposed by LendLease and Magellan Development Group earlier this year, would have added 1,400 residences throughout three new buildings. The project would also add 3,000 construction jobs and generate an approximate $20 million in annual revenue.


A statement from Ald. Rielly’s office on Dec. 13 said that “after reviewing the neighborhood feedback, and discussing with the City Department of Planning and Development, Reilly determined to not move forward with the project.”


The development groups first proposed their plans to the community at a meeting on July 10, showing renderings sleek new buildings. The meeting lasted three hours and drew more than 1,000 residents who gathered to voice their concerns.

After the meeting, Ald. Reilly said his office “received hundreds of letters, emails and calls objecting the proposal.”

After requiring the developers to host public meetings with every residential building in the neighborhood and considering the many concerns raised by locals, Ald. Reilly formally rejected the IJKL plans as presented.

Reilly sent several suggestions to the development companies, providing a list of changes that need to be made before he will consider future plans for the site.
The list included more active, usable open space, elimination of a proposed grand staircase and zigzag pedestrian path, relocation of the Harbor Drive pedestrian access point, and fencing between the parcels and lower Lakeshore Drive.


The alderman also called for tighter security. He suggested a staffed guard station on the lower level to monitor pedestrians, regular security patrols, installation of way-finding signage at the lakeshore access point, and improved lighting and surveillance cameras that can tie-in to the City’s OEMC security camera network


According to Rielly’s office, residents will be notified if the office receives an updated proposal, and a “transparent community process” will continue if the project moves forward.


A copy of Lendlease and Magellan’s slideshow proposal from the July meeting can be found here. http://www.ward42chicago.com/documents/20170710IJKL-UpperLevelAcecessRoutes-ToAlderman.pdf


Urban Real Estate rallies behind campaign to create new children’s programs in Englewood

By Urban Real Estate

November 15, 2017

Over the years, New Eastside’s Urban Real Estate has made charitable gifts to many local organizations focused on bringing services to Chicago’s citizens who need it most. With the season of giving approaching, one group in particular is making a difference in the lives of kids who would most benefit from these services.

Urban Real Estate presents a check to the ULBGC last holiday season. Photo courtesy of Urban Real Estate.

In 2016, Urban got behind the programs of the Union League Boys & Girls Clubs (ULBGC), supporting the group with a portion of closing proceeds and gifts throughout the year to benefit the programs ULBGC offers to support our city’s kids.

When managing partner Matt Farrell shared with his partners what the ULBGC had in store this year, all agreed to get behind the cause. Farrell, who also serves as a trustee of the ULBGC, was thrilled to see a campaign centered around bringing new programs to Chicago’s Englewood community, an area which over recent years, has seen dramatic changes that have negatively impacted the local youth.

“There has never been a more important time for us to invest in our future,”  Farrell said. “We have kids who need us to bring them resources and guidance in helping shape every future decision they are going to make, in a community that deserves our help. We couldn’t be prouder to support the ULBGC Great Englewood Futures Start Here. For us, being a good corporate citizen means giving year-round, and lending a hand in every way we can.”

The campaign hopes to increase programming offered at four Englewood school-based sites, bringing enrollment from 100–600 members throughout grades 1–12. The programs are centered around offering academic support, healthy lifestyle education, and courses in good character and citizenship.

In lieu of a traditional holiday party, this year Urban Real Estate is again supporting ULBGC with a contribution to be made on behalf of Urban’s clients during the holiday season. Last year, Urban raised and contributed more than $16,000 from a similar event.

As you consider your charitable gifts this year, learn more about how you can get involved in the Great Englewood Futures Start Here campaign at www.ULBGC.org

Urban Real Estate

400 E. Randolph St.


(312) 528-9200

GEMS upper school building height reduced

By Nicole VandeBoom | Staff Writer

Dog house days are over

By Taylor Hartz | Staff Writer

October 18, 2017

Following years of complaints, the unsightly “dog house covers” on inactive pedestrian tunnel entrances are being removed from the Magnificent Mile.

In an Oct. 4th report, Ald. Reilly (42nd) announced that the wooden covers on the intersection  of Michigan and Oak, an area with high foot traffic, will be replaced with concrete slabs.

Ald. Reilly said he is funding the improvements through an allocation of aldermanic menu funds, but did not disclose the amount.

In his report, the alderman said that he was “extremely pleased” to announce the Gold Coast infrastructure improvement, which will not only improve appearances, but add increased sidewalk space. He said he is working with Chicago Department of Transportation to cover them in a “more innovative and aesthetically pleasing way.”

CDOT is starting to install the concrete covers on the southeast side of Oak and Michigan in the city’s 2nd Ward, and then will move to the northwest corner in the 42nd Ward.

Ald. Hopkins (2nd) also committed menu funds to the project, paying for the southeast replacement.

The project is expected to take several weeks.


Alderman announces new high-rise developments in Lakeshore East

Lakeshore East is growing up, and growing up fast. Just as the first few floors take shape of what will be Chicago’s third-tallest tower, the Wanda Vista, plans for more Lakeshore East high-rises are ready to be unveiled.

Proposed plans will be revealed at a public presentation hosted by Alderman Brendan Reilly and the New Eastside Association of Residents. Chicago-based Magellan Development Group, in association with Australian company Lendlease Development Inc., will present building renderings and proposals at the community meeting, which will take place July 10 at 6 p.m., at the Hyatt Regency Hotel (151 E. Upper Wacker Dr.).

The proposed developments are located at “Site O” (195 N. Columbus Dr.) and four sites near Lake Shore Drive that will add over 2,000 residential units and 900 hotel rooms to New Eastside.

Magellan Development, the developer of Lakeshore East since 2001, has completed nine buildings in the New Eastside neighborhood. If the proposed plans become a reality, Magellan Development will be responsible for a total of 14 towers in New Eastside.

Community Presentation for Proposed Developments in Lakeshore East Monday, July 10, 6- 8 p.m. Hyatt Regency Hotel, Regency Ballroom, West Tower A 151 E. Upper Wacker Dr.

Elaine Hyde, Editor

Studio Gang’s vision extends beyond the Wanda Vista

Juliane Wolfe, Design Principal at the Chicago office of Studio Gang architect and urbanism practice, says that her company envisioned much more than a skyscraper when it began working on the Wanda Vista tower.

“With this building, we saw a unique opportunity to create a connection with the neighborhood, the Riverwalk and Lakeshore East park,” she explains. “So many people are being influenced by the site. We had to understand really well what was there.”

In some respects, Studio Gang realized that ambition quite literally. The Wanda plan includes strengthening the connection between Lakeshore East Park and the Riverwalk.

“We spent many hours walking around,” Wolfe continues. “What we typically do is build physical models to see how the connections make sense.”

Juliane Wolf of Studio Gang. Photo courtesy of Studio Gang

Wolfe is a native Frankfurter who came to Chicago “during high school” and later earned a Bachelor’s degree from IIT, where Studio Gang founder Jeanne Gang was an instructor.

“It was the first time that I experienced a city that was shaped by tall buildings,” she remembers. “Really exciting and really beautiful people too.”

After graduating from IIT, she started working for Studio Gang. Among the inspirations that guide her is “a high regard to make cities better and more livable.”

The firm’s research near Lake Shore East Park revealed, among other things, that the Riverwalk is a cherished destination. Their plan will strengthen the path between the two areas when the building is completed.

“The Wanda Vista is created of three different stems,” Wolfe explains. “The largest are the outer two. We were able to lift the middle stem, which is supported by the outer two stems, and connect the roads underneath the building.”

The plan also locates the hotel drop-off at the “very highest level” of the street, on “the north side of the east stem.” The residential drop-off is on the south side to the west.

Chicago architecture buffs and critics around the world praise the firm for its creation of the Aqua Tower, an award-winning structure adorned by undulating balconies that soar 82-stories into the air. The flowing grace and dynamic energy of its shape are visible for blocks.

But Studio Gang equipped the structure with an additional flow that affects residents and visitors every day.

“For the Aqua building, we created connections with the elevated stairs from the upper level to the lower level,” Wolfe explains.

Although it does not generate as many headlines as the curvy balconies, it certainly makes the neighborhood a more livable place to be.

— Daniel Patton, Staff Writer

Survey Says Now’s a Great Time to Sell

How to know if it’s right for you

With existing housing inventory on the decline for the past two years, 71 percent of homeowners believe now is a good time to sell according to research by the National Association of REALTORS quarterly Housing Opportunities and Market Experience (HOME) Survey. This rings true with Matt Farrell, managing broker of New Eastside’s Urban Real Estate, who sees the same opportunity in our community, and across Chicago.

“There is obviously a disconnect between homeowner perceptions, and translating that to bringing their home to market, but the truth is, if your lifestyle or economics affords you the opportunity to sell, now is a great time to do so,” says Farrell. “Interest rates remain desirable, and buyers who have

invested wisely are looking to make their mark in our neighborhood by buying here. New Eastside, in particu- lar, attracts serious buyers, competitive offers, and strong deals when presented with homes priced compellingly.”

Urban Real Estate brokers regularly walk clients through the current marketplace, and evaluating if “now” is the right time for a homeowner to sell. Farrell, an expert on local and national media and often interviewed on Chicago’s real estate trends, adds that one

of the most important parts of selling is being able to address the “Where do we go once we sell” question. “Thinking about where you will go once you sell is often the most imperative part of the decision. If you haven’t thought that through, the expense in interim housing, dual packing and moving expenses, and stricter timeframes due to a lease, etc., can ultimately cost you financially now, and negate your ability to negotiate a strong deal for the home you purchase later.”

NAR’s survey also adds that consumer confidence, housing affordability, and job security, continue to add to a market plagued with questions in the short and long-term. “The reality is, homeownership in our corner of the city remains one of the best places to call home. If you have the opportunity to make a change, and can exceed your personal and financial goals doing so, this is absolutely the time to connect with a trusted real estate advisor and evaluate your own situation, today,” Farrell says.

For more on the Urban Real Estate Difference, or to connect with one of our brokers, call 312-528-9200, stop by our office at 400 E. Randolph St., or visit us online at UrbanRealEstate.com.

— Urban Real Estate

Wanda penthouse among city’s priciest

Urban Real Estate announced one of its clients has found a new home in the highly anticipated Vista Tower. The unit is a full floor, to be delivered in the summer of 2020, and is listed at 5,734 square feet, with two balconies, featuring sprawling 360-degree views of the magnificent Windy City, for a little over $8.6 million.

The buyer, who wishes to remain anonymous, is a Chicagoan, represented by Giancarlo Chavez, broker with Chicago-based brokerage Urban Real Estate.

View of New Eastside from skyscraper altitude.

New Eastside viewed from skyscraper altitude.

“My client has very distinctive tastes, and was looking for amenities few buildings offered in the city,” Chavez says.

“As we considered his needs and ultimate wish list, I thought we should take a look at Vista Tower. He immediately loved what he saw, and how spectacular his new home will be. Our client will have the opportunity to be involved in customizing the unit’s layout, design and materials.”

The new gem of the New Eastside will be a $1 billion, 95-story, 1,186-foot structure comprised of residences, as well as a five-star hotel, making Vista Tower Chicago’s third-tallest building.

According to Midwest Real Estate Data, fewer than ten condominiums have sold for over $8 million in Chicago.

McHugh Construction laying Wanda’s foundation

“This is a very special development for Chicago,” says Matt Farrell, managing partner and managing broker of Urban Real Estate.

“This deal in particular sets a tone for the excitement and class that Vista Tower brings to our city. Magellan Development with its partner, Wanda Group of China, have created a sales center that allows us to work with clients to electronically visualize what their home will look like, a first-time effort of this kind in our city — and a huge plus in the luxury real estate sphere,” he adds.

“Giancarlo worked painstakingly to ensure our client garnered exactly what he was seeking, and he found just the building to make his mark in.”

— Urban Real Estate

Laying Wanda’s foundation

The deepest part of the 98-story Wanda Vista Tower extends more than 100 feet below the banks of the Chicago River. This is where a handful of the skyscraper’s support chambers, called caissons, are drilled into solid rock. Designed to secure the structure and withstand the wind, the massive underground columns are among the many elements that Chicago-based McHugh Construction and dozens of subcontractors will complete before Wanda rises from the ground.

“These caissons are enormous,” explains Joel Kuna, the VP in charge of transforming a set of blueprints into Chicago’s third-tallest building. “Ten-foot diameter tubes that have a bunch of teeth on the bottom. Inside, we put thousands of pounds of rebar and concrete.”

McHugh Construction VP Joel Kuna and Project Manager Chris Tapas

Kuna has been with McHugh for 30 years. He joined the company after graduating from Illinois State, where he spent his days off building homes for a carpenter contracting business that he had launched with a friend. He lists the company’s “family-friendly approach” among his reasons for sticking around.

McHugh Construction was founded in 1897 by James D. McHugh, an Irish bricklayer from Chicago’s South Side. Its current chairwoman, Patricia McHugh, is his great-granddaughter.

When the caisson chambers are completed, a crane with a hoisting capacity of “around 30,000 pounds” will lift the tubes into place. The operator will communicate with workers on the ground through a system of hand signals.

“They go with hand signals because you want to keep your hands free for safety and the radio frequencies open for emergencies and the initial call to the operator,” says Kuna. “There’s swing left, right, bring down, hold that load… All kinds.”

An Iron Worker from Chicago’s Local #1 will send the signals up to the crane. Like all the workers onsite, he or she will wear a specific color helmet — for Iron Workers, brown — to designate his or her specific trade. The color-coding system helps tighten the choreography of the large, busy construction site.

Workers prepare the crane for hoisting

“On an average day, we’re hauling dirt, pumping concrete, assembling a crane, taking cranes apart, setting rebar and removing extra sheeting,” says Kuna. “If someone needs to find an electrician or a pipefitter, they can just look at the helmets.”

The crane that lifts the caisson is one of four dedicated to the project, including two that will be assembled onsite and a “bottom crane” that, Kuna explains, will attach to Wanda’s structure and “push on giant jacks to lift itself up” as high as 1,300 feet.

“You know Marina City?” he asks. “McHugh built that back in the day. We were the first ones to do a self-climbing crane.”

Although Marina City was built before his time, Kuna’s résumé lists a number of notable structures. Many of them — including Amoco/BP gas stations, ABC News headquarters and Russia’s International Monetary Fund — are in Moscow, where he spent his first four years with McHugh as Director of Field Operations during the defunct Communistic motherland’s rush to capitalism in the ‘90s.

Since returning to Chicago, he has expanded his list of achievements to include the Mag Mile’s Waldorf Astoria and New Eastside’s Chandler and Lancaster — “the first building out there,” he boasts. His knowledge of the neighborhood’s terrain is as deep as Wanda’s caissons.

“We’ve done it enough out there where we know the routine,” he says. “We are building on the old Chicago slips, which used to be water on the lakefront. They took the docks out and filled them with debris from the Chicago Fire — urban backfill. The ground is decent below 17 feet.”

Pouring concrete into the mat slab

A German-manufactured BG 39 excavator mounted drill rig helped McHugh reach that depth. It looks like a gigantic yellow screw attached to a bulldozer, weighs 330,000 pounds and extends to a maximum length of 118 feet. Upon striking a layer of rock between 20 and 80 feet, it extracted several soil boring cores — cylindrical samples of the earth — that were sent to geotechnical specialists for strength testing.

“As you go into rock, there’s the weathered layer, which could be anywhere from a foot to five or six feet deep,” explains Kuna. “There could be cracks on it because years ago water was running through it or whatever. The cores will tell you when you hit solid rock.”

The results help McHugh determine the proper depth of the caissons, which are divided into four sections called stems — west, center, east and ballroom. The stems are held together by two large sections of concrete called mat slabs, which the company began pouring in the last week of January.

Besides keeping the structure perfectly straight, the caissons also help it deal with the city’s legendary winds. To compensate for the sway that they induce, Canadian engineering and scientific consulting firm RWDI conducted tests on a mini-Wanda before construction began.

The 98-story Wanda Vista Tower, designed by Chicago architecture firm Studio Gang

“They put it on a scale model of Chicago and turn it one degree at a time and simulate wind conditions and run a wind analysis,” Kuna says. “It’s fascinating to watch.”

Combining this level of technological research with basic construction principles is a daily part of Kuna’s job.

The disciplines often meet in a doublewide trailer underneath Lake Shore Drive at the furthest end of Lower Randolph St., about two blocks east of the construction site. The location is an office suite, meeting facility and miniature kitchen with what appears to be Chicago’s blackest coffee. Kuna refers to a large area in the middle as “the war room.”

“This is where all the magic happens,” he explains. “We have a live feed (to the construction site) and we do all of our coordination meetings and 3D modeling here.”

On a recent afternoon, an electrician, a pipefitter and a plumber met with a couple of AutoCAD designers to coordinate the building’s mechanicals — the ducts, pipes and wiring for the electricity, ventilation and water that will bring the structure to life. Virtually walking through a 3D model of the interior displayed on a large computer monitor, they configured Wanda’s “vital organs” within the inches behind the walls “to make sure that they’re not hitting each other,” Kuna explains.

“Architects and owners don’t want to give you tons of room and space for stuff that they don’t want to see,” he continues. “So we’ve established standards over the years — this thick of a wall to put this size pipe.”

Cutting rebar to be placed into the network of reinforcing metal in the the mat slab

Kuna’s appreciation for space planning stems from a mishap that reduced him to tears on his first construction project. “When I was five years old, my grandparents bought me a Lego set and I built a giant airplane,” he recalls. “It was so big, I couldn’t get it out of my bedroom.”

Finishing the walls that will cover portions of the mechanicals adds another challenge to the job. Most buildings are adorned with flat panels, but a handful of Wanda’s lobbies and at least one of its restaurants will feature multifaceted marble.

“It’s got returns on it,” Kuna says. “It’s got beveled angles.”

To determine the best way to proceed, a scaled-down mockup of the tiles hangs on a wall in the war room. “We’re playing around with samples,” Kuna continues. “We want to see installment on three different planes.”

When the building is ready for interior decoration, the number of onsite workers will have expanded from 50 to “around 800, probably in the spring or summer of 2018,” says Kuna.

Several of them will be chosen from a joint initiative between McHugh and Magellan Development to hire more minority tradespeople.

Although Wanda may have achieved her ultimate height of 1,186 feet by then, Kuna’s job will be far from over.

“Not too many guys are crazy enough to do this for a living,” he says. “I love it.”

— Daniel Patton, Staff Writer

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