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Developer Passes ‘Squint Test’ on New Armour Apartment Project

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2 minute read

By Kevin Collison

The design of the first apartment building in MAC Properties planned $78 million Armour Corners redevelopment won support from the City Plan Commission Wednesday after its developer noted it had passed the “squint test.”

Peter Cassel of Chicago-based MAC said a consultant who assisted in the design of the seven-story building planned for 520 E. Armour offered a pragmatic way to gauge whether it blended with its historic neighbors.

“We were told to design it so when you squint your eyes, you can’t tell the difference between the new and old buildings,” he told the Plan Commission.

The Commission unanimously endorsed the design and if, as expected, it’s approved by the City Council next month, construction should begin early next summer with a summer 2020 completion. Helix Architecture + Design is the architect.

The 110-unit building would be the first underway in an Armour Corners redevelopment that’s expected to total 450 apartments and 30,000 square feet of retail. The remainder of the ambitious project will occupy the four corners of Troost and Armour six blocks east.

MAC won general approval for the overall Armour Corners redevelopment plan from the City Council last summer.

The project was accepted with the condition the actual design of its buildings come back to the Plan Commission and the Council for final review and approval.

The site of the project is currently a parking lot in the middle of a corridor of historic former apartment-hotels along Armour Boulevard. (Image from Helix Architecture + Design)

The 520 E. Armour project is on a separate track from the bulk of the development because of its different setting and nature. The Troost and Armour component will include a mix of retail and residential, and is planned for a commercial intersection.

The 520 E. Armour site is in a residential corridor dominated by historic, former apartment-hotels primarily built in the 1920s and 1930s. It will occupy what’s now a parking lot at the northwest corner of Armour and Cherry.

“This will be a 21st Century building in the beautiful, historic context of Armour Boulevard,” Cassel said. “We’re looking forward to bringing an exciting new piece of housing to Midtown.”

In a separate interview, Cassel anticipated the design of the four buildings planned for Armour and Troost won’t mirror the 520 E. Armour project, saying they likely will be contemporary.

He noted architects won’t face the same constraints to fit in with the mostly brick and terra cotta materials of their historic neighbors.

“There are different styles of buildings on Troost Avenue,” he said. “We feel liberated to think more broadly.”

He expected the actual design for the buildings at Troost and Armour will come before the Plan Commission by late spring. Construction is expected to start in Fall 2019.

The average monthly rent at 520 E. Armour is expected to be $920. As with the entire Armour Crossing development, a 10 percent discount will be available to city school teachers, first responders and similar public employees.

About 40 percent of the units are expected to be one-bedroom, 40 percent two-bedroom and 20 percent studios.

There will be 77 parking spaces, the bulk of them on the first level of the project. The apartments will be located on floors two through seven.

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