Trendwatch: Chicago Penthouses Transformed Into Top-Floor Amenity Spaces

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Chicago developers are opting to transform exclusive penthouse spaces into shared amenity spaces.

Forbes - Real Estate

Optima Signature, a luxury apartment community in Chicago’s Streeterville neighborhood, offers residents of its larger Apex units on floors 37-52 exclusive access to Club 52, a specialized amenity floor with wine lockers and an alfresco kitchen, lounge and terraces

OptimaSignature Club 52 Outdoor LoungeTaylor Johnson Public Relations

The top-level floors of urban residential buildings are traditionally considered prime real estate, selling or renting for top dollar as penthouse units. In the last few years, however, many Chicago developers are opting to transform once-exclusive penthouse spaces into shared amenity spaces. This shift speaks to a larger trend in the competitive luxury rental market, where a building’s amenities and community spaces often serve as the deciding factor for affluent renters. 

“While the penthouse level usually commands the priciest and most exclusive square footage in a rental building, we’ve seen changes to this peak space in Chicago’s new rental model,”said Ben Creamer, founder and managing broker of apartment leasing firm Downtown Apartment Company. “Many developers are now using the space for shared recreation, to the benefit of all residents rather than just a select few.”

We recently spoke with developers from luxury rentals in the Chicago market to learn more about this trend and the desired amenity spaces in Chicago right now.

73 E. Lake

The top-floor Sky Lounge at 73 East Lake

The top-floor Sky Lounge at 73 East Lake offers sweeping views of the city skyline, framed by two-story floor-to-ceiling wrap-around windows.Kardas Photography

73 E. Lake, developed by Chicago-based M&R Development, was one of the first luxury high-rise rental buildings to offer top-floor amenity space when it opened four years ago.

Private dining room at 73 East Lake

Residents of 73 East Lake have access to this reservable private dining room and outdoor terrace.Kardas Photography

“When 73 E. Lake first opened, we faced some competitive headwinds with a number of new luxury buildings hitting the market around the same time,” said Anthony Rossi, Sr., president of M & R Development. “Our dramatic top floor amenities, all very focused on the lifestyle of a sophisticated urban renter, set the building apart from other new rentals in the marketplace and helped ensure a quick lease-up. The building’s top-floor lounge and deck remain popular with residents as they gather for social events, host friends and family, or relax after a long workday.”

727 West Madison

View from the 727 West Madison Sky Lounge

The penthouse-level Sky Lounge at 727 West Madison is reserved for the exclusive use of residents, who can enjoy sweeping views of the Chicago skyline and cityscape.JIM TSCHETTER

“For years, the top floor of a high-rise like 727 West Madison, which is the tallest in the West Loop, would have been built out exclusively as penthouses for renters with the deepest pockets,” said David Friedman, president of F&F Realty, Ltd., owner and co-developer of 727 West Madison. “But in vibrant downtown neighborhoods like the West Loop, community is at the heart of daily living–and residents covet one-of-a-kind amenities. So, along with our co-developer Fifield, we decided to devote part of the top floor to club-style amenities for our residents. The Sky Lounge, designed by award-winning design firm Studio K, is offered on a membership basis to 727 residents, giving them 24-hour, exclusive access to an entertainment suite with the best skyline views west of the Loop.” 


Optima's Club 52 Louge

Residents of Optima Signature's Apex units enjoy a penthouse-level lounge in the Club 52 amenity area.Taylor Johnson Public Relations

Optima Signature, a luxury apartment community in Chicago’s Streeterville neighborhood, offers residents of its larger Apex units exclusive access to Club 52, a specialized amenity floor with wine lockers and an alfresco kitchen, lounge and terraces.

“We’re continually seeking ways to design spaces that facilitate people’s need to connect with one another, as well as with their natural surroundings. A key part of making sure our residents have an exceptional experience involves literally elevating the amenity experience on the upper levels of Optima’s communities,” said Tara Hovey, president and COO of Optima, Inc. “By blending resort-style amenities with panoramic views, Optima Signature in Chicago allows residents to simultaneously indulge and recharge.”   


Eleven40’s top-floor amenity space offers residents views of Chicago’s skyline and Lake Michigan and includes a pool, deck, shared kitchen and resident lounge, in addition to a “sophisticated retreat” space that includes an all-inclusive suite of amenities, from a kitchen to yoga studio and fitness center to an outdoor sun deck and dog run.

Eleven40’s top-floor pool deck

Eleven40’s top-floor pool deck.Eleven40

Eleven40's resident lounge and shared kitchen.

Eleven40's top-floor resident lounge features floor-to-ceiling windows and modern seating, along with a shared kitchen.Eleven40

When looking at the longview, Creamer sees this trend in luxury rental builds continuing, stating that “offering over-the-top amenities in extraordinary top floor spaces can distinguish a property in a crowded marketplace and produce better ROI in a building’s leasing strategy.”

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