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CHICAGO-MCZ Development Corp., based here, is launching a new division to focus on loft developments in major cities. Christina Noelle, a principal who has been with MCZ for 13 years, will be president of the new division. MCZUrban will construct residential loft developments as well as convert existing buildings into loft developments, Noelle says.

MCZ, which has a $1.6-billion portfolio, started developing loft projects in Chicago in 1985. “For a very long time, the core and identity of our business” was loft developments in Chicago, Noelle says. Some of MCZ’s previous developments include No. Ten Lofts, 616 W. Fulton and Clinton Street Lofts. About five years ago, the company expanded geographically and within the past couple of years the company has expanded into other types of developments as well, Noelle says. The company developed Western Auto Lofts in Kansas City, MO and has been involved in land acquisitions and some commercial deals, she says.

MCZ is currently developing condominium, condo conversion, hotel-condo and mixed-use projects, with a total of more than 3,500 units, in Illinois, Alabama, Arizona, Florida, New Jersey and Washington, DC.

The company decided to launch the new division and go back to its core business and to “refocus on what we really understand and know best,” she says. MCZUrban will focus on major cities with “good building stock” such as here, Milwaukee and Boston.

The loft developments are unique in that they incorporate lifestyle elements, Noelle says. “We are creating neighborhoods, not just buildings,” she says. The company does an analysis of the location and project to determine what types of retail, such as a grocery store or dry cleaner, should be included in the building and what other types of amenities such as a fitness center or yoga and wellness center. Typically, the development is in a “marginalized neighborhood” or “neighborhoods that are still emerging” where the development is “kind of creating an island” with the types of retail the residents will need, she says. The amount of retail varies per development and is usually between 5,000 sf and 30,000 sf.

“MCZ has plans for some other divisions and other diversification in the next year,” Noelle says. Some of the new divisions will focus on repositioning and leasing efforts, she says. Noelle adds she can not give more information at this time because MCZ is still working on details.

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