University students live in the lap of luxury in downtown Chicago
Loop North News

The Arc at Old Colony

(Above) Does this remind you of your dorm room? The kitchen of a three-bedroom apartment on West Van Buren Street, marketed to students attending nearby Roosevelt University, Columbia College, and Depaul’s downtown campus. (Click on images to view larger versions.)

University students live in the lap of luxury in downtown Chicago

60,000 college students live downtown but not all of them have the dumpy dorm rooms and apartments that we had.

11-Sep-15 – Let’s reminisce about those bygone college days through our foggy bifocals. It’s the 1960s. You are residing in a midwestern college town, trying to adjust to campus life and hoping to meet a few new friends. The Vietnam War is raging. You have a student deferment and the pressure is on to get good grades.

When not studying journalism and writing stories for the Columbia Missourian 100 hours a week at the University of Missouri, this writer spent autumn weekends attending Mizzou Tiger football games, drinking beer, and playing intramural flag football.

Home was a dilapidated three-story dwelling on Rosemary Lane that was converted to off-campus, unapproved student housing. The place rivaled the Delta frat house in the 1978 John Belushi movie Animal House. Mrs. Henderson, my tough landlady, leased rooms to about a dozen students for $60 per month.

My roommate, a U.S. Army vet and former Stars & Stripes sportswriter, and I shared a two-bedroom top-floor apartment with a Korean student who also was studying journalism.

Our Spartan kitchen featured an antique gas stove on legs with an oven that smoked and burners you lit with a match. The bathroom showcased an ancient tub on legs. An aging refrigerator without ice cube trays stood in one corner of the kitchen.

On the bottom shelf of the fridge rested a dead cockroach flipped on its back. A prior renter taped a cardboard tombstone to the shelf and scribbled, “R.I.P.”

Fast-forward five decades to Chicago’s Loop, now known as a downtown campus to 60,000 university and college students.

Old Colony Building At the 17-story Old Colony Building (left) at 37 West Van Buren Street, McHugh Construction recently completed renovation and conversion of the interior from offices into 137 luxury apartments, providing bedrooms for 380 students.

Renamed The Arc at Old Colony, the landmark building is part of a historic district with the neighboring Manhattan, Fisher, and Monadnock buildings, and others. The building qualifies for a $10 million federal historic landmark tax credit that is being guided by MacRostie Historic Advisors.

Far from ordinary dorm rooms, the swank apartments feature high ceilings, vintage wood, and restored Moorish mosaic tile foyer floors, new granite, and stainless steel kitchens.

Posh apartments that grace the building’s castle-like turrets showcase round living rooms (right) with wall-mounted HDTV and restored original pine flooring, and inlaid mosaic tile in foyers and halls.

Modern interior features in the nicely furnished apartments include kitchens equipped with granite and stainless steel appliances – range, microwave, double-door refrigerator/freezer, dishwasher, and in-unit washer and dryer.

The Arc at Old Colony

Ceramic-tiled baths showcase walk-in showers, and bedrooms feature wall-to-wall carpeting. Each apartment has free wi-fi and cable, including HBO.

A three-bedroom, two-bath, fully furnished model apartment with 1,252 square feet of space has been completed on the northeast corner of the building on the 13th floor.

Designed for three students, a typical fully furnished three-bedroom apartment features a master suite with private bath that leases for $1,598 per month. Two other private bedrooms each lease for $1,199 per month. Rents at the Arc at Old Colony start at $799 per month for a shared bedroom.

The restoration and conversion into a $58 million luxury student housing development is being done by CA Ventures, LLC, a Chicago-based real estate management firm specializing in student housing worldwide, and MCJ Development, headed by Keith Giles.

Keith Giles “Restoring Old Colony Building to its former elegance is like an archeological dig. Many of the property’s historic features are surprisingly intact, but were covered over,” said Giles (left), who has developed a dozen adaptive-reuse and historic renovation projects in his career.

“Leasing has been brisk throughout 2015,” noted Robert Presbrey, Regional Portfolio Manager for CA Student Living. First move-ins started August 21, coinciding with start dates of many nearby colleges, universities, and graduate programs. According to Giles, the building already is 75 percent leased.

“We are serving more than 16 different schools located in the South Loop and have met with several in regards to creating rental programs to serve their students,” said Presbrey (right). Robert Presbrey

Plans also call for five ground-level retail spaces and a premier fitness center on the second floor. So far, a Subway sandwich shop and a restaurant have leased spaces.

On the 17th floor, developers designed a community space and added a rooftop deck and terrace area, and a restful oasis with gas barbeque grills and a fire pit. A clubhouse level is open to all residents and offers downtown and lake views with TVs and a lounge zone.

The architectural highlight of the second floor study room, or lounge, is an ornate coffered ceiling reminiscent of an English university library. At first glance, the ceiling beams resemble marble, but they really are pre-cast “scagliola” plaster, according to architect Kenneth DeMuth of Chicago-based Pappageorge Haymes Partners, the architect in charge of the renovation.

“The benefits of living and studying in a luxury Arc at Old Colony apartment near downtown campuses in Chicago’s Loop are immense,” said Presbrey. “The Loop is a vibrant neighborhood brimming with shopping, restaurant, and entertainment options, and terrific public transportation.”

By Don DeBat | Loop North News |

Published 11-Sep-15 5:15 AM

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