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CHICAGO-A city-owned site at 151 N. State St. is just south of the Chicago Theater, across Randolph Street from Marshall Field’s flagship store and on the opposite corner of the Mills Corp.’s “Block 37″ redevelopment project. Tough competition for any building, not to mention a lackluster two-story structure with a ground-floor Walgreen’s outlet and office space upstairs.

However, Smithfield Properties has sold nearly 75% of the 208 condominiums in its proposed $82-million project, which includes 34,000 sf of retail space. Additionally, Booth Hansen’s steel and concrete design for the 32-story building, with a glass curtain wall and three-story hole, drew mostly praise Thursday, when the plan commission endorsed the project as well as a zoning change.

At 390,000 sf, the project is 27% larger than allowed by current zoning. However, Smithfield Properties received bonuses from the department of planning and development, says assistant commissioner Nori Greenstein, for putting all 68 parking spaces below grade, a $299,000 contribution to the city’s affordable housing fund and upper-level setbacks.

Principal Robert Buono tells GlobeSt.com Smithfield Properties hopes to begin construction in October, with completion scheduled for October 2007. The one-, two- and three-bedroom units range from $285,000 to $600,000, he adds, with pre-sales beginning in February.

Smithfield Properties agreed in 2003 to buy the 0.44-acre site for $9.58 million. However, the company’s original plan called for 124 condominiums and 66 rental units. Smithfield Properties was one of three developers to answer a request for proposals by the city. “You have no idea how many attempts have been made to improve this corner,” says 42nd Ward Alderman Burton Natarus, noting one plan called for a fruit market.

Construction will be staged on site, Buono says, rather than requiring the closing of State Street or disrupt events at the Chicago Theater. The four-story base will be built out last, he explains. Geneva Capital is financing the project, he says.

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