Condo Living: It’s the Little (Big) Things…

3 Factors That Make or Break Condo Life in Downtown Chicago

Chicago’s Trump Tower at 401 North Wabash in River North

Central location is an obvious priority among those who call the neighborhoods closest to Chicago’s central business district home.

The West Loop is beloved for its proximity to financial services and tech offices as well as restaurant row on Randolph. Die-hard South Loopers love having Grant Park as their backyard. In River North, Streeterville, and the Gold Coast, homeowners crave great shopping, fine dining, and access to both the lake and Chicago River.

But once you’ve checked the ‘right geography’ box, other considerations should get some attention. Here are three:

Can You Hear Me Now?

Condos on West Monroe in Chicago’s West Loop

Living smack in the center of Chicago is generally not as quiet as in farther-flung neighborhoods and suburbs. Being close to the action sometimes means hearing the action.

That being said, there are levels. Tree-lined State Parkway north of Division is quieter than more retail-heavy areas of the Gold Coast. And thanks to its lively bar and restaurant scene, River North near Hubbard and State Streets has more foot and auto traffic than the area west of Wells Street inhabited by art galleries.

Street noise matters more to some than others. Consider carefully where you are on that spectrum and ask questions like:

  • Where, exactly, is that fire station or emergency room from here?
  • How loud is the rush hour traffic from fifteen stories up?
  • Will squealing CTA bus brakes wake me at night?

Condo-dwellers are also sometimes bothered by hearing the everyday lives of their building mates. Other times, it’s their lives being broadcast. The extent to which either is an issue depends on individual tolerance as well as building construction and floor plan design. Think about it:

  • Do you sing in the shower? …Yes? Then a floor plan with the bathroom situated close to the unit’s entry door may not be the best idea.
  • Are floor squeaks (common in some timber lofts) preferable to sometimes echo-prone concrete lofts?
  • What role does an entry foyer or flooring play in reducing noise transmission?

Have We Met?

It’s also important to think about what you’re looking for from the community life that comes with condo ownership.

A quiet, low-key existence with little daily interaction? Surprisingly, a building with a unit-count over 300 may meet your needs well. With many people coming and going, you’re less likely to have neighbors focused on your day-to-day movements (or lack thereof). But a smaller building with no door staff may also fit the bill.

Career connections or new friends? A building’s outdoor pool or sundeck can provide ample opportunities to get to know others in a casual setting.

A real sense of community? Townhome communities or boutique buildings with 125 or fewer units can provide this. So can a larger building if it maintains an active resident events calendar.

Restrictions on renting units can really impact overall building “climate”. Some owners love the flexibility to rent out a unit at will. Others prefer to be surrounded by neighbors as invested as they are. It’s true that an association’s spending priorities usually reflect those of a majority of owners. And investors can have priorities that differ from those of live-in owners. All things to consider.

Watch The Closing Doors.

You know that penthouse view of the lake you’ve been dreaming of? Only an elevator can get you there. So give some attention to how long you’re waiting in the lobby and how long it takes to travel to your floor (including how often it stops to pick up people traveling between floors).

Elevator count, elevator speed, peak usage times, and how many neighbors you have could eventually determine whether you love or hate your high-floor life.

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