Big Deahl Starts Small, Breaking Ground on Two Residential Buildings

big-deahl-starts-small,-breaking-ground-on-two-residential-buildings

If you’re a devotee of Peet’s Coffee, you’ve probably seen the Big Deahl development developing for a while in the space between Cabrini Green, and the North and Clybourn Apple Store. The multi-phase project opened its retail space, Movement Lincoln Park, as a gym a few months ago. Now, phase two is underway.

A groundbreaking ceremony was held recently for the next two buildings: Common Lincoln Park, and The Seng.

December, 2021 rendering of The Seng. (Courtesy of Structured Development.)

The Seng is a building unlike most in Chicago. Instead of being snapped up by private equity companies, or overseas investors, the 34 condominiums will only be available to people in Chicago who meet certain income guidelines. That means the Chicago Community Land Trust, a quango run by the Chicago Department of Housing will decide who live there. It’s a small, but important, step toward slowing Chicago’s downtown neighborhoods from continuing to evolve into enclaves for the moneyed loafing class.

The building is named for The Seng Company, which used to have a furniture factory in this space. Seng claims to have invented the sofa bed, and three types of recliners. Today, Seng is no longer in Chicago. It’s in Georgia. And it no longer makes furniture. It makes buildings as real estate investment company.

December, 2021 rendering of Common Lincoln Park. (Courtesy of Structured Development.)
December, 2021 rendering of Common Lincoln Park. (Courtesy of Structured Development.)

The second new building is called Common Lincoln Park, presumably because it will be run by a New York company called Common, and because it’s kinda sort nearish to the Lincoln Park neighborhood.

Common likes to describe its buildings as “co-living” spaces. Which to salt-of-the-earth middle westerners means it’s coastal millennials re-inventing the boarding house wheel again.

In this case, the boarding house is on an unusually large scale. Big enough that you might even call it a dorm. We’re talking 400 rooms in a ten-story building, almost the exact size as ol’ McIntyre Hall from my university days, but without the R.A.’s and black light foam hallway rave nights. Hopefully.

Mike Drew, founder of Structured Development says, “Big Deahl brings true economic diversity to the neighborhood, offering a dynamic mix of affordable for-sale housing and market-rate rentals.” He’s not wrong. Sure, we make fun of Common for running a giant boarding house and marketing it as innovation. But if boarding houses and dorms help bring some badly needed mixed-income residents into downtown Chicago, we’re all for it.

Chicago now has S.R.O.’s marketed as “micro apartments.” And boarding houses marketed as “co-living” buildings. Next up: women’s hotels re-invented as “gender-specific safe housing.” I can feel the west coast venture capital money already.

Groundbreaking at Common Lincoln Park and The Seng.  Left to right: Randy Thrall, Thrall Enterprises; Jeff Geier, Power Construction; Walter Burnett Jr. – 27th Ward Alderman, City of Chicago; J. Michael Drew, founding principal, Structured Development; Susan Tjarksen, managing director, Cushman & Wakefield; and Jennie Fronczak, executive director, Chicago Community Land Trust.  (Courtesy of Structured Development.)
Groundbreaking at Common Lincoln Park and The Seng. Left to right: Randy Thrall, Thrall Enterprises; Jeff Geier, Power Construction; Walter Burnett Jr. – 27th Ward Alderman, City of Chicago; J. Michael Drew, founding principal, Structured Development; Susan Tjarksen, managing director, Cushman & Wakefield; and Jennie Fronczak, executive director, Chicago Community Land Trust. (Courtesy of Structured Development.)