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CHICAGO-Developers are pointing to more than 100 sales in six weeks at two condominium buildings on the same block in the Printers Row neighborhood as evidence that demand remains for residential. The string of sales was jump-started by a March auction at one of the buildings, Vetro, a 222-unit, 31-story condo building, located near Polk and Wells streets. Following the auction that sold 45 of Vetro’s units, the neighboring 88-unit, 17-story Printers Corner development saw increased sales velocity, eventually selling out its remaining 19 units last weekend.

“The number one thing this shows is that there are still buyers in the marketplace, contrary to all the doom and gloom we’ve been hearing,” says Bob Horner, co-principal of Evanston-based Winthrop Properties, which developed the $30-million Printers Corner at 170 W. Polk St. “Buyers have been apprehensive to buy because they haven’t been able to determine a fair price.” Of the 88 units at Printers Row now sold, only one buyer had any problem securing financing, Horner says, dispelling yet another myth he says is discouraging potential homeowners from taking the plunge.

Recently both developments adjusted pricing down to align with the numbers buyers proved they were willing to pay at the auction. Printers Row sold its remaining 19 units for around $325 per square foot. Vetro sold more than 80 units for around $290 per square foot, and has only about a dozen units remaining to sell.

“The trigger was the auction at Vetro, which set market price and gave people a sense of confidence that they weren’t overpaying,” Horner tells GlobeSt.com. “That’s been one of the biggest psychological problems, so anything that can establish a definitive comparable value is something that brings buyers out. We’ve seen that there are buyers and they’ve demonstrated an interest in spending money at the right price.”

Printers Row has been established as a residential neighborhood for about 20 years, since factories and printing facilities began to be converted en mass. The past decade has seen an influx of new construction, including the Printers Row and Vetro developments, which both offer one- and two-bedroom units and were completed within the past year-and-a-half. The area offers proximity to Grant Park, the Chicago Theater District and Museum Campus.

“The lesson here, and my advice for other developers, is to find a way that you can quantify for people what your product is worth,” Horner says. “We were leery to do it ourselves, but being near Vetro when they did, the auction was a good technique for that. No one wants to be first, and the auction proved to people that others were buying and gave them that boost of confidence they needed.”

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