Need a Home? Buy a Building


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Need a Home? Buy a Building

Apartment buildings have often suffered more wear and tear than single family homes, due to the effects of renters rotating in and out. Plus, you’re “talking about buildings that are in some cases nearly 200 years old, built at a time when the amenities were very different from what people expect today,” says Ben Bischoff, an architect with Brooklyn-based Made Architecture who has done five conversions in Greenwich Village in the last three years.

Such projects typically require reimagining the layout entirely. To renovate Ms. Painvin’s place, a construction crew is removing three small kitchens and converting the main level into an open concept space with exposed ceiling beams. Ms. Painvin planned to move in before the arrival of her baby in April, but delays securing a permit pushed back their expected completion until the fall. She says the overall renovation budget is double what she originally anticipated, but declines to say what she’s spending. A three-bedroom single-family home in her neighborhood sold last year for $1.6 million.

Such conversions have become common in some neighborhoods in Chicago that have attractive, older apartment buildings and good schools. Don Higgins, a Chicago-based architect, says he started getting a handful of requests for such conversions about 13 years ago. In the past two years, he says, demand has grown exponentially, particularly for properties in Chicago’s Lincoln Square and Northcenter neighborhoods. “There are whole blocks being torn down, and people are putting up single family homes,” he says.

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