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Living the high life

Luxury real estate is reaching new heights with new crop of penthouses

By Jeffrey Steele, Special to the Tribune

April 5, 2013

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Penthouses are increasingly defining the Chicago skyline as developers tap into a niche market for luxury residential properties and savvy buyers and renters see an opportunity to elevate their lifestyles.

Buyers pay a premium for those lofty perches, of course. Top Gold Coast buildings average $800 to $1,000 per square foot, but penthouses command more than $1,000 per square foot, with some going for more than $1,200 per square foot, according to Mike Golden, co-founder of @properties real estate brokerage firm in Chicago.

"That's actually a bargain when compared with Manhattan, where penthouses can run five times that," he said.

Developers are betting that these trophy properties will be appealing to those who can appreciate — and afford — the upscale finishes, breathtaking views and amenities like concierges and spas.

Penthouses are a "little niche market," said Gail Lissner, vice president at Chicago-based consulting firm Appraisal Research Counselors. "It's the pyramid story; there's much more demand at the lower end of the price spectrum. Demand narrows as you go up."

Here's a sampling of new penthouses in Chicago:

Ten East Delaware, 33 W Delaware Place. One of the six original penthouses on floors 33 and 34 remains for sale at this high-rise, which opened in spring 2010.

Listed at $2.4 million, the 33rd-floor, 3,000-square-foot unit has a library and three-bedrooms with bathrooms en suite.

A formal foyer opens to a great room with 11-foot ceilings, fireplace and wall of windows looking west on the Gold Coast. Balconies offers lake and downtown views. The kitchen has a built-in pantry and Sub-Zero appliances. The master bathroom includes a walk-in shower, a separate tub encased within two stone slabs, a double vanity and separate water closet. Marble window sills are throughout, with hardwood floors in non-bedroom areas.

A rooftop pool is on the 36th floor, and a gym and party lounge is a floor below. A la carte hotel services are offered by The Talbott Hotel next door, including room service, concierge, pool-side dining, and more, said Genna Hill, senior sales associate and developer consultant with @properties.

Trump International Hotel & Tower, 401 N Wabash Ave. In 2011, Helen Velas, president of Eleni Interiors in Naperville, designed the 86th-floor, 3,800-square-foot penthouse of multimillionaire Wilbert Hamstra and his wife, Peggy, which was purchased in "white-box" form awaiting build-out. Purchase, build-out, interior design and furnishings tallied $4.5 million.

The penthouse encompasses a third of the floor, and offers floor-to-ceiling windows wall to wall. Kitchens, baths and build-outs feature custom-made cabinetry hand-carved and hand-finished by an Indiana cabinet maker, maximizing storage and function.

The den is open to the dining area, but features retractable walls that transform it into a guestroom when needed. Three other guestrooms have bathrooms.

"In the foyer, we took a plain rectangle room, added a barrel ceiling and a black-and-white marble floor with Sumatra rosewood planks, creating a lattice pattern," Velas said. "We took out a closet and added a niche for a built-in console with antique mirror above, and also added a custom Italian hand-blown glass chandelier."

Lincoln Park 2550, 2550 N. Lakeview Ave. The new ultra-luxury high-rise builiding has several penthouses for sale in excess of $4.5 million. Among them is a $5.2 million penthouse with three bedrooms, 3 1/2 baths, family room and library, and 4,970 square feet, more than 1,000 of that outside, offering southeast views of Lake Michigan and the city.

The development features an indoor pool, health club, sun deck, sauna, whirlpool and steam room, park and playground, party room, valet cleaners and doorman.

Legacy at Millennium Park, 60 E Monroe St. One of seven penthouses remains at this 72-story luxury condominium building.

The $3.65 million, 4,378-square-foot finished penthouse covers half of the 71st floor, and features 14-foot ceilings, three bedrooms, marble tile baths and wide-plank hardwood floors. Views extend east over Millennium Park, north over River North and west over the Loop.

At the 13th-floor, the building is linked by a sky bridge to the University Club of Chicago, offering a chef's creations, catering service and hotel rooms for visiting guests, all available to residents.

Amenities include pool, fitness room, sauna, and "sky garden" outdoor areas connected to two-story community rooms on the 15th, 40th and 60th floors.

The penthouse units here attract younger married couples and retired empty nesters, who "have all made their own fortunes," said James Hanson, principal of Chicago-based Mesa Development, the building's developer.

The Fordham, 25 E. Superior St. John Robert Wiltgen Design Inc. of Chicago handled designed the 3,700-square-foot penthouse on the 49th floor, which recently fetched $2.75 million as unfinished space. The recently divorced buyer, who enjoys dining al fresco, was drawn to the home's 500 square feet of outdoor patios. The penthouse features exotic ember wood throughout, wall hung cabinets behind frosted glass doors, base cabinets in a wenge finish, motorized window treatments, a 1,700-year-old Turkish stone mosaic over the tub and whirlpool tub and shower.

Custom lighting illuminates the owner's photography collection, and a terrace is off the kitchen.

Ritz-Carlton Residences, 118 E. Erie St. Penthouses of more than 6,500 square feet are available at the 40-story condominium building off Michigan Avenue, including one that is $13 million penthouse. The Landmark Club, a full-floor private club for residents and their guests, includes a salon, private dining room, billiard room, wine cellar, screening room and exercise and spa treatment rooms.

Wicker West 1555, 1555 N. Talman. One of five penthouses remains for sale at this eight-unit, mixed-use condominium development in Chicago's West Town neighborhood. A three-level penthouse is priced at $389,000, and includes three bedrooms and three full baths. The master suite has a Jacuzzi tub and private balcony. An entry gallery opens onto the 20-by12-foot living and dining area, with corner gas fireplace featuring granite mantle and slate-tile surround. An adjoining island kitchen has granite countertops with translucent glass backsplashes. The 250-square-foot private rooftop deck offers views of the Loop and Near Northwest Side.

Penthouses here have primarily drawn buyers who desire rooftop decks, said Sara Benson, president of Chicago-based Benson Stanley Realty.

Coast, 345 E. Wacker Drive. Five penthouses crown the top of this 515-unit , 46-story apartment tower by Magellan Development Group on the northwest corner of the 28-acre, master-planned Lakeshore East community.

The two- and three-bedroom, three-bath penthouses range from 1,228 to 2,766 square feet, starting at about $4,000 a month. Units offer views of Navy Pier, Grant Park, North Michigan Ave. and Streeterville.

Penthouse renters are young professionals and empty nesters, said Kris Schwengel, senior vice president of construction for Magellan Development Group.

Coast is Lakeshore East's first smoke-free building. Residents have access to The Shore Club amenity package, which includes 24-hour fitness and tech centers, a spa lounge with hot tub, sauna and steam rooms, private meeting space and study lounges.

Outdoor amenities include a heated lap pool, garden and deck, lounge areas with daybeds, a fire pit with lounge seating; barbecue grills and free Wi-Fi access.