Wheaton, Ill.—The leafy Chicago commuter suburb of Wheaton is not one of the first places folks would associate with rental housing. Not by a long shot.
Known as the home of Wheaton College, and for its standing as the municipality with the greatest number of churches per capita in the world, Wheaton is dominated by stately single-family homes lining quiet streets extending outward from the commuter rail station in its quaint downtown district.
That’s what makes the groundbreaking of Wheaton 121, a six-story rental community featuring 306 luxury apartment homes, so newsworthy.
How was it possible to develop a rental community right in downtown Wheaton? “It was a combination of factors,” David Strosberg, president of Chicago-based developer Morningside Group, tells MHN.
“First, the land was available at the right price. The city was open to allowing medium-density rental housing on the site. Rental rates had increased in the marketplace to the point where revenues would support cost of new construction. And last, tax increment financing was available for certain public infrastructure improvements wanted by the city that were linked to the development.”
Expected complete in the late summer of 2013, the development will feature five levels of apartment homes and a 400-plus-space indoor parking garage.
At Wheaton 121, upscale renters will be able to choose from five studio homes; 212 one-bedroom, one-bath homes; 66 two-bedroom, one-bath homes; 19 two-bedroom, two-bath homes; and four three-bedroom, two-bath homes.
The residences will showcase nine-foot ceilings, granite countertops in kitchens and baths, stainless steel appliances, wood floors, ceramic tile in bathrooms, high-end plumbing and light fixtures, balconies, individually controlled gas forced-air furnaces and central air conditioning, and in-unit washers and dryers.
Luxury, common-area outdoor amenities will include a swimming pool, barbecue stations, outdoor kitchen, fire pit, lounge areas, a dog run, bocce court and sculptural foundation. Indoors, Wheaton 121 will feature an upscale community room, separate business center and conference room, state-of-the-art theater room with theater seating, large health club-style fitness center and yoga area.
Among the challenges posed by the development was addressing the prospect of sky-high Chicago-area construction costs. “Morningside is the construction manager on the project, as well as the developer, and we really invested an enormous amount of time value engineering every aspect of the construction,” Strosberg says. “It’s been a painstaking process to work every aspect of the building and get the construction cost down to stay within budget.”
Wheaton 121 will surely appeal to folks who like leaving their vehicles garaged whenever possible. There’s an increasing desire to live near nodes of transportation, and to walk to amenities, Strosberg adds. “On Walkscore.com, this address comes up with a rating in the 90s and a description as a walker’s paradise,” he says. “It’s not only just a few blocks from the commuter rail station, but adjacent to a long list of entertainment, recreational and dining venues.”
Wheaton 121 is likely to be seen as a trendsetter, spawning additional development of suburban downtown luxury apartment communities.
“We’re targeting this community to be the finest rental community in the western suburbs,” Strosberg says. “We believe it will attract affluent people looking for a high-end rental option not really available within a five-mile radius of the property. The most recent rental project in the Wheaton-Glen Ellyn market is 15 years old. We’re looking to do similar projects in other affluent suburbs.”