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University Students Live In The Lap Of Luxury In Downtown Chicago

Let’s reminisce about those bygone college days through our foggy bifocals. It’s the 1960s. You are residing in a Midwestern college town, trying to adjust to campus life and hoping to meet a few new friends and acquaintances. The Vietnam War is raging.

You have a student deferment and the pressure is on tao get grades.

When not studying journalism and writing stories and headlines for the Columbia Missourian 100 hours a week at the University of Missouri, this writer spent autumn weekends attending Mizzou Tiger football games, drinking beer and playing intermural flag football.

Home was a dilapidated 3-story dwelling on Rosemary Lane that was converted to off-campus, unapproved student apartment housing. The place rivaled the Delta frat house in the 1978 John Belushi movie “Animal House.” Mrs. Henderson, my tough landlady, leased rooms to about a dozen students for a $60-a-month.

My roommate, a U.S. Army vet and a former Stars & Stripes sportswriter, and I shared a two-bedroom top-floor apartment with a Korean foreign student who also was studying journalism.

Our spartan kitchen featured an antique gas stove on legs with an oven that smoked and burners you lit with a match. The bathroom showcased an ancient tub on legs. An aging refrigerator without ice-cube trays stood in one corner of the kitchen.

On the bottom shelf of the fridge rested a dead cockroach flipped on its back. A prior renter taped a cardboard tombstone to the shelf and scribbled, “R.I.P.” Fast-forward five decades to Chicago’s Loop, now known as a downtown campus to 60,000 university and college students.

At the Old Colony Building, a 17-story office building at 37 W. Van Buren St., McHugh Construction recently completed the renovation and conversion of the interior from offices into 137 luxury apartments providing bedrooms for 380 students.

Renamed The Arc at Old Colony, the landmark building is part of a historic district with the neighboring Manhattan, Fisher and Monadnock buildings and others. The building qualifies for a $10-million federal historic landmark tax credit which is being guided by MacRostie Historic Advisors.

Far from ordinary dorm rooms, the swank apartments feature high ceilings, vintage wood and restored Moorish mosaic-tile foyer floors, new granite and stainless-steel kitchens and in-unit washers and dryers.

Posh apartments that grace the building’s castle-like turrets showcase round living rooms with wall-mounted HDTV and restored original pine flooring, and inlaid mosaic tile in foyers and halls.

Modern interior features in the nicely furnished apartments include kitchens equipped with granite and stainless-steel appliance package—over-range, dishwasher, double-door refrigerator-freezer, microwave, and in-unit washer and dryer.

Ceramic-tiled baths showcase walk-in showers, and bedrooms feature wall-to-wall carpeting. Each apartment has free Wi-Fi and cable, including HBO.

A 3-bedroom, 2-bath fully furnished model apartment with 1,252 square feet of space has been completed on the northeast corner of the building on the 13th floor.

Designed for three students, a typical fully furnished 3-bedroom apartment features a master suite with private bath that leases for $1,598 a month. Two other private bedrooms each lease for $1,199 a month. Rents at the Arc at Old Colony start at $799 a month for a shared bedroom. Call 312-283-3331 or visit:

The restoration and conversion into a $58-million luxury student housing development is being done by CA Ventures, LLC, a Chicago-based real estate management firm specializing in student housing worldwide, and MCJ Development, headed by Keith Giles, from K Giles LLC.

“Restoring Old Colony Building to its former elegance is like an archeological dig. Many of the property’s historic features are surprisingly intact, but were covered over,” said Giles, who has developed a dozen adaptive-reuse and historic renovation projects in his career.

“Leasing has been brisk throughout 2015,” noted Robert Presbrey, Regional Portfolio Manager for CA Student Living. First move-ins started August 21st, coinciding with start dates of many nearby colleges, universities and graduate programs. The building already is 75-percent leased, said Giles.

“We are serving more than 16 different schools located in the South Loop and have met with several in regards to creating rental programs to serve their students,” Presbrey said. Plans also call for five ground-level retail spaces, and a premier fitness center on the second floor. So far, a Subway sandwich shop and a restaurant have leased spaces.

On the 17th floor, the developers designed a community space and added roof-top deck and terrace area, a restful oasis with gas barbeque grills and a fire pit. A clubhouse level is open to all residents and offer downtown and lake views with TVs and a lounge zone.

The architectural highlight of the second floor study room, or lounge, is an ornate coffered ceiling reminiscent of an English University library. At first glance, the ceiling beams resemble marble, but they really are precast “scagliola” plaster, to architect Kenneth DeMuth of Chicago-based Pappageorge Haymes Partners, the architect in charge of the renovation.

“The benefits of living and studying in a luxury Arc at Old Colony apartment near downtown college and university campuses Chicago’s Loop are immense,” said Presbrey. “Amenities in our building The Loop is a vibrant neighborhood brimming with shopping, restaurant and entertainment options and terrific public transportation.”

Don DeBat is co-author of “Escaping Condo Jail,” the ultimate survival guide for condominium living. For more information, visit

“The book is Escaping Condo Jail by Sara Benson and Don DeBat. I would say that anybody thinking about buying a condo, or even anybody serving on a condo board, or anybody who has any connection to a condo, this is must reading—all 600 and something pages. Thanks a lot for a great book!”


Steve Sanders, “Your Money Matters” WGN TV, December 22, 2014

By Don DeBat

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