A grand office in the penthouse at 159 East Walton Street, which is being sold by an A-list actor.
Greenery abounds on the rooftop of 65 East Goethe Street.
A residential unit in the Trump Tower, where a penthouse is primed and ready for customization.
The penthouse at 159 East Walton is on the market for $16.75 million with luxury amenities included.
Donald Trump, Bill Wrigley, Juanita Jordan, and a certain anonymous A-list actor have more in common than celebrity right now—all are trying to sell their glamorous Chicago penthouses. The going has been a little slower than those boldfaced names probably expected, since all but Jordan’s have been on the market (though not necessarily the MLS), for well over a year. Given the relative strength of the luxury market despite the economy, and the cachet and demand for penthouses, the sales lag is surprising. “Penthouses are a pretty hot commodity here and often sell quickly. There aren’t that many, and there’s always a large group who want them for the prestige and outdoor space,” says Baird & Warner broker Millie Rosenbloom, who estimates she’s sold a few dozen in her career.
A month was all it took Prudential Rubloff broker Janet Owen to sell an 8,100-square-foot, five-terrace penthouse on the 47th floor at The Fordham in River North in July, snagging $6.4 million for the property. That was just $500,000, or seven percent, below the asking price. And the month before, it took her 54 days to sell a lavish penthouse at The Waldorf (formerly The Elysian) for $6 million, again $500,000 shy of the asking price. Of course, the sticking point for two of these four celebrity pads could be their prices, each well above the $6 million mark.
The Donald is asking $32 million for the 14,260-square-foot unfinished spread on the 89th floor of Trump Tower that he was said to be saving for himself, making it the highest-priced property to ever go on the market in Chicago. Still, it’s not outrageous when you do the math. The place works out to $2,244 per square foot, which is significantly less than the $10,000 that super-luxury properties pull in Trump’s hometown of New York City.
A Hollywood heartthrob’s 12,000-square-foot triplex in the Palmolive Building, 159 East Walton Street, is on the market for $16.75 million, which comes to $1,395 per square foot. Bonus: It’s done to the hilt, although luxury buyers are notorious for wanting things their way, which makes an unfinished unit preferable in many cases.
But bottom line, these prices make the other two relative steals. Wrigley’s 3,187-square-foot penthouse atop 65 East Goethe Street, also unfinished, is reduced from $6 million to $3.5 million, making it $1,098.21 per square foot, while Jordan’s 8,000-square-foot triplex at 1100 North Lake Shore Drive is $5 million—a mere $625 per square foot.
Yet these units are exceptional for another common denominator they share: All are true penthouses, making them even more of a unique commodity at a time when the term is often loosely applied. “Not all penthouses are on the top floor, or even have outside space,” explains Jim Kinney, Baird & Warner’s vice president of luxury home sales. “Today, the term is used to denote something special about higher units that differentiates them from those in the rest of the building.” With this strategy, the top three to five units of many buildings are called penthouses. They may have higher ceilings, fewer units per floor, better fixtures and finishes, and lavish outside space—or not, explains Kinney. At press time, he said, “there are 33 self-described penthouses on the market, and their luxury features really vary.”
Trump’s lacks a terrace but makes up for it in size, drama, and stature. “It’s currently the highest residential penthouse in the Western Hemisphere,” says listing broker Chezi Rafaeli of Coldwell Banker. “We did our homework on Emporis [a global building database at emporis.com] to figure it out.” Other merits include 16-foot floor-to-ceiling windows that ring its entire perimeter with unencumbered views since the mechanicals are in a central core. “When people see this place, they literally say ‘Hold me,’ or ‘Get me a chair,’” he crows. And a terrace would be lethal at this height. “You’re about 1,200 feet high here, and the winds are way too rough,” Rafaeli adds.
While Trump’s penthouse is a white box waiting for work, the actor’s triplex is already dressed to the nines with sumptuous finishes and amenities like a screening room and a game room, plus 700 square feet of outdoor space. The Jordan penthouse is a triplex with a designated smoking room and a rooftop deck and solarium with a glass floor for a floating-on-air experience, and Wrigley’s has a stunning 1,500-square-foot rooftop terrace.
Of course, whoever eventually buys any of these star penthouses will be on top of the world, literally and figuratively. But it doesn’t take multiple millions to buy into the penthouse club. After all, says Kinney, “There are 14 penthouses on the market in the $1–$2 million range right now, and some of them are really quite spectacular.”
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