Design your life to include more money, health and happiness with less stuff, space and energy.

Design your life to include more money, health and happiness with less stuff, space and energy.

Windy City Goes Micro with FLATS Chicago

Chicago adds its name to the growing list of cities that are building large-scale micro-unit developments with FLATS Chicago. The project is quite an undertaking. The development company, Cedar Street Co, has acquired seven buildings, representing 1200 apartments that will be converted into luxury apartments in the city’s rough-and-tumble Uptown and Edgewater neighborhoods.

Unit size will average around 350 square feet and be as small as 275. Amenities will include things like free wifi, washer/dryers in each unit, bike-shares, common spaces, rooftop pools and sports clubs. Projected rents range from $800 a month for a studio to at least $1,400 a month for a two-bedroom.

Rendering of Interior of FLATS Chicago

Jay Michael, one of Cedar Street’s partners, told Time Out Chicago that he wants to “sell singles on what he calls ‘FLATS life’: Common spaces are ‘an extension of your space’ where you can meet neighbors or entertain friends,” and that they are “targeting recent college grads who are ready to live alone,” who “for the same rent they’d pay for their half of a two-bedroom condo…can live solo at FLATS.”

Sounds good to us.

But there’s a catch: the buildings in question are dilapidated SRO’s, many of which, until recently, were occupied by impoverished residents. Though the developers want to make their units financially “approachable” to the existing tenants, the rents will likely be out of reach for most, and construction will inevitably displace them, even if that displacement is only for the length of the renovation.

While not obliged to do so, Cedar Street is working with transition coordinator Sherri Kranz to find housing for old tenants, many of whom have been in the apartments for more than 10 years. In one building alone, Wilson Tower, she’s working to find 60 people new homes–a challenge for people accustomed to paying as little as $475/month rent. She’s turning to city housing and nonprofits, though it sounds like sometimes the best she can do is get people on waiting lists. [Note: the SRO’s in question are not the “supportive housing” we talked about the other day, but rather privately held buildings.]

It’s the perennial gentrification conundrum. On one side are the under-served populations the buildings house. However, these building are, in Kranz’s words, “slums”–ones that in short time will be closed due to disrepair, making them a not-so-sustainable housing solution.

On the other side, the FLATS apartments will presumably serve large populations of city-dwellers, young and old alike, who are priced out of traditional apartments in more expensive neighborhoods.

Granted, there’s a big difference between having to get a roommate and being homeless, but it doesn’t negate the need for this type of clean, smart and affordable apartment.

Do you have any thoughts on these competing interests? Have you seen them successfully reconciled? Let us know in our comments section.

via Time Out Chicago

  • There is a really nice SRO small space apartment building in San Diego right next door to the largest homeless shelter in the city. In order for it to receive the proper permits and waivers for SRO new construction, they struck a deal with the city to intersperse X # of units as transitional housing in a partnership with the city. The same working poor, college grad demographics applied in theory and generally in practice. They also had income limit restrictions for each sized unit. Renter’s had to provide their tax returns each year upon lease renewal and if they were over the limit they had the option of a pro-rated increase in rent to subsidize the lower rents of the transitional housing or have their lease renewed for a period of no more than 3 or 6 months. At which time they needed to secure other housing or pay the increased rent amount.

    It worked REALLY well.

  • Tuan Pham

    although its great that recent graduates and people who can’t get into the traditional apartment price bracket range. There has to be middle ground here having this development great! I’m all for these kind of smart living and efficiency, but at the cost of displacing people from not just a house but their homes of 10 plus years.

  • For a short time I lived in Frawley Plaza in NYC at 110th and Fifth Ave. It was a housing project whose lease was up with the city and it was sold to a developer. I was one of the new tenants who moved in when it was first sold because they tiny apartments were dirt cheap for Manhattan and it meant living across the street from Central Park. Plus Museum Mile was at my doorstep. My god, what I witnessed there. Old tenants were literally being thrown out of their homes and were being harassed by new management on a daily basis. The police and fire department came to the building several times a week the entire year I was there. I felt so awful being there that I decided I had to leave when my lease was up. BUT here is the kicker. Once I decided to move I received my rent renewal form. The building’s new owners wanted to almost doubled my rent! NICE! So, I feel like sure, these new apartments that you describe will be much cheaper than other apartment in “better” parts of the city in the beginning. But if they are open market apartments, once the area become a little gentrified BLAMO, the tenants are going to get hit with steep increases. Where are they supposed to go when that happens? The chain of displacement will just start all over again.

  • FYI, I don’t mean to be Debbie Downer- I love the idea- I just want stuff like this to stay affordable

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  • Sigmarlin

    The young people moving into this place must be really clueless. I lived in a 2 bedroom by myself for $850 in Ukrainian Village. They are going to pay $1400 for something smaller because it has bamboo flooring? Why are you displacing at-risk residents when there are many many empty lots and boarded up buildings near Humboldt park and southwards. Build your yuppie lofts in the empty spaces rather than displacing people.

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  • Not so interested anymore

    I currently pay $875 for a very nice size 2 bedroom apartment right outside of the city..I don’t see the savings..How much did the places cost before you rehabed them?

    • i think you’re paying for the amenities and the communal nature of the place. i think the places cost less than $500/month previously but were in extreme disrepair.

  • di

    For spaciousness and to hide the mess of a kitchenette, cover it with louver doors.

  • Michelle Chapman

    I love the design of these and would live like that if financially reasonable, but I currently pay way less for a brand new just built 1200 sq. foot single family home, even when you add in my property taxes, insurance and utilities I am still below the 2 bedroom cost. I’m just slightly above the cost of the studio.

  • Robyn B

    What a lot of developers maybe don’t consider is becoming part of the CHA system( Chicago housing authority). It sounds unappealing but it used to be that when developers did this in poor areas like these they were required to “give back” a certain amount of the property to low income people. by providing subsidized housing most of the time. Many of these buildings over the years went on to win awards ( and by extension funding) for doing so and keeping it nice for both sets of residents. With the changes in the section 8 and CHA programs in the last few years I’m not sure if these rules have gone away or what. It seems like it would be doubly profitable to embrace the public systems where available and make money from both cash paying residents as well as from government subsidy. ( double dipping? if it helps people who cares?)

    As an uptown resident for my entire life ( on and off but never far from there) actually very near this building. I have seen the changes that more recent developments have made on the neighborhood( better and worse). As a resident of one of the first “gentrified” buildings in the neighborhood in the 1980’s, I feel like it could be a great thing to have a project like this. It could also be horrible for not only the current residents but also future residents who move to uptown for the convenience and diversity of the neighborhood. The neighborhood does have a a college near by well as easy as easy access to all the other colleges in the city so apartments with single students, grad students or young professionals in mind is really smart.. with the potential to be really smart.

  • Steve Amann

    When I retire, I will have a place in Chicago and a place in the warmer Southwest and will bounce back and forth between seasons. A micro apartment in Chicago will be a better option than a hotel room for 5 months out of the year and way cheaper than owning a second home or condo. Though small, they’re typically larger than a hotel room, with kitchen and laundry. The only thing I’ll need there permanently is a TV, computer, some clothes and toiletries.