Showing 1 - 6 of 7 blog posts

Neighborhood Spotlight – Chinatown

Monday, 19 Feb 2018 at 06:30 pm



Chinatown in Chicago, such an eclectic and wonderful neighborhood to live in and visit. Chinatown is located on the Near South Side of the city in the neighborhood community Armour Square. Situated between 18th Street and 26th Street, and roughly Wentworth Ave. to the river, Chinatown is very centered around the original denseness of the neighborhood shops and restaurants. Once you step onto Wentworth Avenue you will immediately feel like you've walking down one of the bustling streets in China. It is incredibly unique and freeing – to be transplanted into an atmosphere that is unlike what you know, yet it is in your city. Energetic shops and businesses line both sides of the street with people running in and out, fancy pagodas and incredibly architecture and building facades. Our Chinatown is a perfect example of an Americanized Chinatown or "ethnic-Chinese" neighborhood.

At the heart of Chinatown's lively business district is Cermak and Wentworth Avenue. Here you will find a plethora of shops, cafes, restaurants, gathering places and teahouses. The Chinatown Square outdoor mall has similar attractions. The Chinese-American Museum has exhibits about the history of the neighborhood. And the Nine-Dragon Wall is a reproduction of the 15th-century mural of the same name in Beijing.

At the time of the 2000 Census, Chicago's primary statistical area had over 68,000 Chinese population. As of the 2010 Census, including suburbs of Chicago, close to 100,000 people were of Chinese descent. Chicago is the second oldest settlement of Chinese in America after the Chinese fled California. Looking to escape the anti-Chinese violence that had broken out on the west coast, the first wave of Chinese arrived in Chicago in 1869 via railroad. By the late 1800's, 25% of Chicago's Chinese residents settled in the Loop. In 1912, they began moving south to Armour Square. The move to the New South Side Chinatown was led by the On Leong Merchants Association. The OLMA had a building constructed on what was then 22nd Street that was large enough for 15 stores, 30 apartments and the Association's headquarters.

In the 1920s, community leaders secured close to 50 ten-year leases on properties in the newly developing Chinatown. The director of the OLMA then decided that a Chinese-style building should be constructed as a strong visual announcement of the Chinese community's new presence in this area. Chicago-born architects Michaelsen and Rognstad were asked to design the new building in 1926. Michaelsen and Rognstad's drew their final design after studying texts on Chinese architecture. When the building opened in 1928 at a cost of $1,000,000 it was the finest Chinese-style structure in any North American Chinatown. The On Leong Association allowed the Chinese Consolidated Benevolent Association to put its headquarters in the new building and also used it as an immigrant assistance center, a school, a shrine, a meeting hall, and office space for the Association itself. In 1928, Michaelsen and Rognstad designed two other buildings in the area—Won Kow Restaurant (Chinatown's oldest restaurant) and the Moy Shee D.K Association Building. Won Kow is very important to me, as for years after caroling at Christmas time, my music troupe would come to Chinatown and enjoy Christmas Eve or Christmas Day dinner together around a massive table….and a fantastic drink called the Volcano!

During the late 1980s, a group of Chinatown business leaders bought 32 acres property north of Archer Avenue to build Chinatown Square - a two-level mall consisting of restaurants, beauty salons and law offices, flanked by 21 new townhouses. Additional residential construction, such as the Santa Fe Gardens, a 600-unit village of townhouses, condominiums and single-family homes still under construction on formerly industrial land to the north. In my opinion, one of the most outstanding was the creation of Ping Tom Memorial Park in 1999; located on the Chicago River, the park features a Chinese-style pavilion that many including myself consider to be the most beautiful in the Midwest.

Chinatown has flourished from a community that was partially Chinese where residents mostly spoke English into one today where many can easily communicate in Chinese. Most businesses, restaurants and agencies operate bilingually, since the majority of residents speak a Chinese dialect, and nearly 65 percent are foreign-born. Over a time when traditional urban Chinatowns such as Manhattan, San Francisco, Boston and Philadelphia were fading due to gentrification and changing cultural landscapes, Chicago's Chinatown is growing larger — becoming what experts say ‘could be a model for Chinatown survival in the U.S.' In Chicago, where several neighborhoods are no longer defined by the immigrant or ethnic groups that once occupied them, Chinatown is an exception, having anchored this area since 1912. Locals say it has avoided gentrification because Chinese-Americans value a sense of belonging and choose to stay in the neighborhood. Few Chinese move out, and if they do, they sell their homes back to other Chinese.

Between 2000 and 2010, Chinatown's population increased 24% and its Asian population increased 30%. Asians make up nearly 90 percent of the neighborhood's population. It's unlikely Chicago's Chinatown will succumb to national trends, some experts say, and projections show the greater Chinatown area growing. Some bordering neighborhoods have seen an steady flow of Asian families moving in: Between 2009 and 2013, Bridgeport's Asian-American population grew from 26 to 35%, while McKinley Park's grew from just under 8% to 17%, according to an analysis of census data.

Walking through the Chinatown Gate with the beautiful Chicago skyline in the background and you will see young Chinese professionals gathered at the local restaurants or children skipping around the playgrounds. You can walk the streets and sample exotic foods, herbs and teas, shop at the many traditional Chinese stores and groceries and attend art exhibitions and museums to learn more about the culture. 

Beautiful River North Loft - Only $450,000!

Friday, 12 Jan 2018 at 01:08 pm


Originally a 2 bedroom, this gorgeous condo has undergone a transformative rehab to come out as a stunning one bedroom, two bath loft with a highly desired open floorplan.

Exposed brick, lofted timber, and dark-stained hardwood floors throughout are made even more prominent by the extra large windows lining the entirety of the unit. The kitchen itself is a entertainer's dream come true, fully equipped with viking appliances (including a wine fridge to keep your pairings chilled to the perfect temperature). The industrial-strength ventalition hood and crystal white quartz countertops make cleaning up a breeze after a long day of hosting friends for dinner and drinks by the wood burning fireplace centerpiece of the living room. Finally, the extra large bedroom features an en suite with his and hers vanities lined with the same quartz found throughout the rest of the unit as well as a walk in closet, professionally designed by California Closets. 

Building amenties include a common courtyard patio and deeded garage parking for an additional $35,000. Amenities are a steal at only $472/month. 

Find our Mortgage calculator here.

For more information about 420 W Grand Ave. 4G, click here. 

This property is listed by Robert Sikkel of @properties. 

Otherwise, contact The Olin Sells Chicago team to schedule a showing today.


Looking in Lakeview?

Wednesday, 10 Jan 2018 at 02:54 pm

Mortgages and the myth of the 20% down payment

Wednesday, 10 Jan 2018 at 02:53 pm

Happy holidays everyone! I hope everybody got their fill of Christmas ham this past week! I spent my christmas in West Palm Beach relaxing by the pool with my parents and working on my tan. It was definitely nice to dodge the polar vortex for a few days. Recently we've been chatting within my real estate team about common misconceptions that people have about real estate so I've decided to start blogging about some of these topics.

I think the one I hear most often is the myth of the 20% down payment. Since I've been in real estate, someone tells me at least once a week that they'll never actually be able to save up the money for a down payment. As daunting as it can sound, you really don't need more than 3.5% to 5% of the total cost of the house to get your foot in the door (no pun intended). Before we talk about where the 20% comes from, I should define the two most popular types of loans.

FHA – These loans come from private lenders that are federally regulated and are insured by the Federal Housing Administration. Notable guidelines to know are:

  • FHA loans allow for a lower credit score than conventional loans
  • The down payment for an FHA loan can be as low as 3.5%
  • They require mortgage insurance for the duration of loan (typically 30 years)

Conventional – Conventional loans are loans that are less restricted by government regulation. These loans are harder to get but generally save you more money in the long run. Notable guidelines for these loans are:

  • Requires a minimum 620 credit score
  • Must have a minimum down payment of 5%
  • Only requires mortgage insurance until your home equity reaches 20%

Both loans include a stipulation that requires something called private mortgage insurance (PMI for short) which insures any losses the bank might face if you were to stop making your monthly payments and lowers their risk. On a loan with PMI, you pay for the bank's insurance as part of your monthly mortgage payment. A lot of times FHA loans are advertised having lower interest rates than conventional loans but sport higher PMI costs. This creates the misconception that FHA loans are superior when in actuality they end up being more expensive in the long run. Conversely, a conventional mortgage actually ends PMI at 20% of the loan amount which means that you'll see a reduction on your monthly payment in 5-7 years. This is where the 20% comes from. While PMI might add a little to your monthly bills, in the long run it enables you to start building equity now. 

If you're considering buying in the next year, please reach out so we can connect you to a reliable mortgage lender. They'll be able to access your credit and create an action plan to help you prepare to get approved when you're ready! For my next blog post, I'll writing about free down payment assistance programs that most people don't know exist. 

Chad's Novermber Update

Wednesday, 10 Jan 2018 at 02:51 pm


November's Neighborhood Spotlight | River North

Wednesday, 10 Jan 2018 at 02:50 pm

River North is an energetic neighborhood on the Near North Side of Chicago. The ‘legal limits' are the Chicago River to the West and the South, up to Chicago on the North, and over to the magnificent mile/Michigan Avenue on the East. Aptly named River North, the entire area lies just North of the Chicago River. River North got its start as an industrial area and later became primarily a warehouse district. When the warehouses began to close in the 1970's, the large empty buildings attracted a myriad of artists, builders, commercial and residential developers, and writers looking for loft and studio space; thus creating a neighborhood that is very artistic and residential. Today, it is still a chic, cultural area hosting a plethora of art, boutiques, restaurants, and a bustling young professional scene. 

When Chicago was incorporated in 1837, the city was situated on the river and lake taking full advantage of all the westward expansion opportunities from the water. The bend in the river, listed above as the boundaries of River North, is historically important in the development of Chicago. Some of the first taverns, stores, hotels and bridges were created here and then after the famous Chicago Fire in 1871, many of these were destroyed. The area was quickly rebuilt to assist with the shipping facilities in the port, and then filled with new warehouses and buildings. When new railroad tracks were laid along the river in the 1890's, the industrial area began to explode. Old buildings that made it through the fire or were built shortly thereafter were repurposed into hotels, apartments, galleries and shops. Then into the early 1900's the larger companies started moving in and these buildings saw more offices, advertising agencies and other businesses call them home.

Keeping the history alive, recognition of early settlers of the River North area can be found reflected in the names of some of the streets; Hubbard, Kinzie, Taylor, Clybourn and Noble to name a few.

One of the first examples of change came in 1964 when the Marina City condominiums opened on the North side of the river at State Street. This property is so unique, not only its location on the river and the views it provides its residents, but also simply its design and strange appeal. I've shown apartments in this property and attended parties here over the years; it never ceases to amaze me! But complete rebirth was still years away. River North was an urban wasteland with many neglected or abandoned buildings. Dormant factories and other industrial buildings began their transformation in the 1970's and 1980's. What followed was a huge inflow of new businesses that densely concentrated this area and have made River North a hub for creativity and entertainment. Architectural standouts in River North are everywhere, from the House of Blues, the aforementioned twin corn cobs towers Marina City, to the Mies van der Rohe steel and glass building at 330 N. Wabash.

Other notable buildings include the beautiful and widely photographed Wrigley Building, the Tribune Tower, the gorgeously designed Trump tower, the East Bank Club and many more. River North's newest luxury condo building The Ronsley, located on Kingsbury and Erie, is a classic turn-of-the-century building that has been beautifully renovated and reimagined. The Ronsley marries historic architecture with modern luxury. With 41 very unique residences, The Ronsley provides residents with class and luxury through a range of floor plans, views and amenities. I was lucky enough to have sold one of the very first units in the building this year to a lovely client who I know is living the high life now in one of River North's best buildings! Once a neighborhood filled with factories and warehouses, River North is now often considered Chicago's version of New York's SoHo; and The Ronsley adds to that feeling.

Today River North boasts luxe shops and eateries, posh nightclubs and a myriad of cocktail bars. The Merchandise Mart, which opened in 1930 in the former industrial area, attracts thousands of shoppers to its design showrooms. When it opened, it was the largest building in the world with over 4,000,000 million interior square feet. Surrounding the Mart, artist's studios in converted warehouses and lofts form a hub that sustains the area's best art galleries. I have been to the Mart multiple times for networking events, shopping, performances, etc. and almost get lost every time, due to its sheer size.

The colorful, energetic neighborhood of River North is cultured by day and boisterous by night. The people who live, work and visit this area know how to work hard in business and then sit back and enjoy the jovial nightlife. The tree lined streets are set with lovely vintage residences mixed with new high rise buildings, as well as tons of parks like Kingsbury Park on the Chicago River, or Montgomery Park. This neighborhood is extremely walk able, has tons of shopping and attractions for both the Chicagoans who call it home and the tourists alike, and is a great place to work or live!