Akara Gives Chicago’s Development-Hungry Fulton River District a Boost

Akara Partners is taking an underdeveloped, transit-oriented site in Chicago and building an apartment property on it to accommodate the growing technology market where Google is opening its new headquarters.

By Gail Kalinoski, Contributing Editor500_NMil_2 (2)

Akara Partners, a real estate investment, development and operation firm in Chicago, is planning a two-building, 270,202-square-foot apartment and retail complex in the city’s River West neighborhood that should be completed in 2016.

The first step of the project at 500 N. Milwaukee Ave. in the Fulton River District near the West Loop is demolishing an existing vacant building. Construction will soon begin on the development that will include 227 apartments, 14,000 square feet of street-level retail, and 102 parking spaces. Designed by Pappageorge Haymes Ltd., the development will feature a four-story building on the northwest corner of Milwaukee and Grand avenues totaling 55,074 square feet and a 14-story building on the other side of Green Street with 215,128 square feet.

BMO Harris Bank is providing construction financing for development. Crain’s Chicago Business reported the bank lent Akara Partners $43 million for the project. Akara Partners said Goldman Sachs is an equity partner. CA Residential, a unit of CA Ventures, is the development partner and Tishman Construction is the general contractor.

“500 N. Milwaukee is possibly the best underdeveloped, transit-oriented site for apartment development in Chicago,” Rajen Shastri, founder and CEO of Akara, said in a release. “The adjacent Fulton Market District is a hub for growing technology companies seeking talented employees, and 500 N. Milwaukee is an ideal residential location that is heavily trafficked with excellent access to public transportation and Divvy (ridesharing) bikes.”

The residential units will have mostly one-bedrooms and studios as well as 20 two-bedroom and eight three bedroom apartments. Amenities will include business and fitness centers, party room, dog run, bike storage and pool with a sun deck.

“This is the type of responsible, community-based development we wholeheartedly support. A site that has been a magnet for vagrants and graffiti in recent years will now provide quality residential units and retail space in keeping with our vision for River West and Fulton River District,” Sam Martorina, president of the Neighbors of River West community group, stated in the release.

500 N. Milwaukee is near the location of Google’s new headquarters in Chicago, which is scheduled to open in 2016 at 1000 W. Fulton Market. Sterling Bay Cos. is developing the Google headquarters and several other commercial projects, including at the old Harpo Studios, in the Near West Side of Chicago.

Tech companies like Google are driving demand for office and apartments for rent in Chicago. Marcus & Millichap’s National Apartment Research Report said the city’s “apartment market will stage another strong performance in 2015, with vacancy and rents set to improve even as completions rise to the highest level on record since at least 2000.” The report stated more than 4,000 apartments are expected to come online this year. Marcus & Millichap also said “investors and lenders will remain optimistic about the Chicago apartment market through 2015, even as completions rise.” The report noted strong demand and the favorable lending climate have driven prices in the Chicago metro area to record-levels.