Distressed Asset to Record Setting Sale, the Focus Impact at 1717 Ridge.

07 July 2020
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Focus is dedicated to enhancing community, building value and impacting lives through the real estate we develop and construct. Teams don’t shy away from challenging projects like those posed by distressed assets. Across our over 25-year history, Focus has successfully revived distressed assets in Chicagoland by keeping these values front of mind.

1717 Ridge, stalled in Evanston

In 2008 the condominium buildings at the corner of Ridge and Clark in Evanston, IL were half-built when the recession reduced the size of the American economy by 20% and brought most development projects to a halt across the country. Like many others at the time, the original ownership team found themselves unable to finish the 2 remaining buildings of the 4 originally planned for the site. The foundation of the 3rd building had been dug, but the concrete not yet poured by the time the bank had taken control of the property. When the dust had settled, the bank and the neighborhood were left with a gaping hole in the ground. In addition, the adjacent condominium owners and related condominium association were frustrated by the uncertain future of their incomplete community.

In 2010, Focus was introduced to the project. After negotiating a purchase contract with the bank who foreclosed on the property, Focus’ development team, along with their partners at Atlantic Residential, got to work on solving the complex problem in front of them.

In addition to the condominium association being concerned about the changes to the project and the hole in the ground collecting water, the existing condominium building was not ADA compliant. Any modifications to the original design would require Focus’ team to redesign and then re-permit the rest of the development, while creating an ADA-compliant entry for the existing condominiums

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The Focus Approach

The Focus team started by amending the Planned Development “PD” through the city of Evanston, which allowed them to build an 8-story apartment building in place of the originally planned condo buildings. Together with Architect – Booth Hansen, Focus worked to re-design the structure so it would complement the existing condominium buildings while simultaneously adding the required ADA features necessary to ensure accessibility not only in the new building, but in the existing structures as well.

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Transformation through construction

Once teams received approval on the plan changes, the Focus construction team took control of the site. In addition to the 40’ deep hole, there was an exposed 3-story underground basement which shared the same column line as the proposed building. In order to address the massive hole, Focus, Booth Hansen and Structural Engineer – Matsen Ford, designed and installed an earth retention system. This system included large braces along the excavated area with concrete thrust blocks poured below the elevation of the new basement level. This enabled teams to safely bring the new building foundation up and out of the hole. Once the interior precast floor system was set in place, the bracing could be safely removed.

With the new foundation formed, the Focus construction team then had to link the existing structure and the new apartment building. Teams took field measurements of the pre-existing structural steel in order to marry the new steel at every level. The new structure was also taller than the pre-existing condominium building but Focus’ design united all the structures by creating a rooftop amenity deck and courtyard between the buildings. The new amenity deck, courtyard and pool were constructed on the roof of the condominium building’s underground garage.

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Addressing challenges head on

The complicated nature of the project at 1717 Ridge required Focus to balance the needs of their equity and business partners with those of the City, the bank and community members. “Focus has never been a cookie cutter developer and our team embraces challenges such as 1717 Ridge – it’s what we’ve become known for,” says Senior Vice President of Development, Justin Pelej.

The interconnected work between the existing and new buildings required that Focus take a direct approach with homeowners and provide frequent, clear communication in order to address their concerns every step of the way. Pelej adds “At 1717 Ridge, collaborating with the condominium association was the key to ensuring success. At the crux of our company values is showing respect for the existing community where we build. By remaining sensitive to the condo association’s needs and negotiating through all of the stakeholders’ priorities, I’m proud of the way we completed this project and created value for everybody involved.”

Not only did Focus successfully finish the project at 1717 Ridge, delivering 175 luxury apartments to Evanston in 2013 but they subsequently sold the project for the highest price per unit in the Chicago suburbs at the time.

The success at 1717 Ridge is just one example of Focus’ dedication to enhance community, build value and impact lives through the real estate we develop and construct. Teams embrace the challenges posed by the distressed assets like those at 1717 Ridge and rely on their years of experience and technical knowledge to work through roadblocks and deliver the highest value to their partners. To learn more about Focus’ experience with distressed assets, reach out today.

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