Friday, July 20, 2012

Apartments Likely Driver Of Any Chicago Construction Employment Upturn

Employment in Chicago’s construction industry has been declining by 5,000 to 6,000 jobs each month recently, dropping more steeply than any other significant metropolitan market in the United States. Ironically, the only hope for the near future arises out of the city’s and nation’s foreclosure debacle – the need for more rental apartments to house dislocated former homeowners. Though Mayor Emanuel has recently announced commitments by such corporate giants as Google, Sara Lee, MillerCoors and United Airlines to move office jobs into the city, much of that workforce will be located in existing vacant office space, such as Google’s lease of 400,000 square feet in the Merchandise Mart.

On the other hand, new apartment construction in the city is showing some slow but hopeful growth. Recently launched projects in the residential high rise market include the Kennedy family’s 500 unit, 50 story apartment tower on Wolf Point, and the 42 floor, 332 unit Summit on Lake at 73 East Lake Street, now under construction. Chris Kennedy describes the family’s Wolf Point project as “a billion dollars coming into the city when all is said and done,” including not only the 50 floors of small apartments appealing to “young people without cars” and two office towers to be built later. Forty-second ward Alderman Brendan Reilly is still dealing with community opposition to the Wolf Point project, which will obstruct the delightful views of neighborhood residents recently purchasing expensive condos nearby.

It will be years before we know whether these new rental units will be abandoned by their tenants when the housing market finally turns around, if ever, but the apartment developers are betting billions on substantially full occupancy, at least until their apartment projects can be fully depreciated and sold off as condos.

blog comments powered by Disqus