The latest amenity for attracting luxury rental tenants: Live-in musicians
Magellan Development Corp. is planning to fill a fairly unorthodox position at its newly opened 36-story River North building: live-in musician.
The new position is the latest salvo to be fired in the battle for renters in downtown Chicago, where a boom in a luxury residential construction has caused a rental housing glut, and where experts say landlords may soon have to lower monthly rates in order to fill their units. The live-in musician is also Magellan’s way of responding to the demands of young renters, who expect new buildings to offer entertainment and opportunities to socialize.
“All of us are competing for the same residents and we all offer the same amenities, so we decided: Let’s try something different,” said Magellan National Marketing Manager Jim Losik.
Magellan also will likely use the strategy to appeal to renters in newly constructed buildings in other markets, including in its SoBro apartment building in Nashville, Tenn., Losik said.
The River North neighborhood building, known as Exhibit on Superior, highlights the artistic surroundings of an area of Chicago known for its art galleries. It’s at the site of an old Howard Johnson hotel.
Chicago, like many other cities, has been inundated by new luxury high rise apartment buildings during the last few years, and Appraisal Research Counselors predicted last week that by fall rents may be cut as new buildings find it difficult to attract enough renters.
“The River North area is definitely the most competitive,” said Gail Lissner, vice president of Appraisal Research Counselors.
The formula for luxury apartment buildings often includes lounges and other areas for socializing and entertainment — expansive kitchens for cooking demonstrations, outdoor fire pits, parks, swimming pools, theaters, fitness centers, music practice rooms and game rooms. The high-rises are like an extension of college dormitory living for graduates pursuing careers in cities. Apartments are luxurious but small, to keep rents of about $3 a square foot manageable.
“With so much new construction everyone is looking for an edge or special identity,” Lissner said. Featuring a resident musician can do that without incurring any construction costs or making a commitment that can’t be easily changed, she said.
Magellan is seeking singers and other musicians who will be given free rent in exchange for the services they provide. The finalists will audition before the apartment building’s residents in April, Losik said.
“It’s a win-win,” he said, generating activity in the building but also showing support for artists.
In the future, Losik said, the resident entertainers may be selected based on the particular type of community served. For example, he said, in a new building at Ontario and Wells streets — an area once home to Gino’s East Pizzeria — a sculptor or other artist may be the resident entertainer. Losik said the entertainer, in exchange for free rent, will perform for residents in the lounges and other common areas, while perhaps providing lessons for groups or individuals. The successful candidate will be expected to entertain or instruct residents for at least 8 to 10 hours a week at no charge to tenants.
“We are still feeling our way through this,” he said.