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EVANSTON, IL-The $50-million Winthrop Club condo tower at 1567 Maple St. in nearing completion. Finishing touches are being put on the first phase of condos in the 15-story building, with the first move-ins planned to occur next month. Five years in the making, the 96-unit project is currently about 40% – less than development group Winthrop Properties expected when they began planning in 2004, but not surprising given the current economic climate.

“We’re facing all the challenges everyone else is facing in this market, and buyers are very apprehensive and cautious about making a bad decision from an economic standpoint,” Bob Horner, co-principal of Evanston-based Winthrop Properties, tells GlobeSt.com. “Our buyers are very sophisticated and used to making decisions, so we’re still selling in spite of the market – not at the rate we’d hoped, but at a satisfactory level. Once we demonstrate that the building is complete and we start closing units next month, that will take the anxiety from the people sitting on the fence who are waiting for proof, so that should give us a boost.”

Winthrop Properties, a joint enterprise of developers Horner and Ibrahim Shihadeh, bought in 2004 the property, which formerly housed a two-story, 6,000-square-foot office building that was razed before construction of the condo tower began in November 2007. The 15-story property offers a majority of two- and three-bedroom units, with some one-bedrooms. The average unit size is 1450 square feet, and condos range in price from $329,000 to $1.9 million for the building’s four penthouses, all of which have sold.

Horner says being from Evanston, he and Shihadeh have a natural fondness for the area, and have been planning another development there since their first condo venture, Evanston Galleria, sold out around 2000. “We were pleased with what we saw when downtown Evanston took off; most properties were gobbled up, so when we had the opportunity to acquire the Winthrop Club property, it was a good fit,” Horner says. “We felt the product offered subsequently to the Galleria and prior to Winthrop Club had been very middle of the road in terms of finishes. We saw the North Shore’s potential with empty nesters and other buyers, and thought a higher quality product would be in order.”

The units feature finishes including granite kitchen countertops, Italian cabinetry, marble bath countertops, 10-foot ceilings, master bedroom closet organizer systems, crown molding, oak floors, and private balconies and/or terraces. Common amenities in the building include a fitness center, swimming pool, spa, sundeck, club room, and a 24-hour doorman. The property offers proximity to public transportation and parking spaces that come with the purchase of each home.

“There’s not a lot of activity in downtown Evanston, and all of the new construction has been sold out,” Horner says. “There’s still good interest in downtown Evanston. Because of a combination of the financial crisis and a zoning delay as a result of Evanston’s city downtown planning, we’re the only new construction, which is fine with us.”

The building is planned to become the first residential high rise in the Midwest – and one of only six in the country – to earn Gold LEED certification from the US Green Building Council. Its construction used green power and its design incorporates a green roof, bamboo paneling and live bamboo in the lobby, green common building systems that use 20 percent less electricity than usual, state-of-the-art air filtration systems, and low VOC-emitting paints, sealants and adhesives. Units were given ecofriendly touches including Energy Star appliances, dual flush toilets, low-flow plumbing fixtures, and floor-to-ceiling low-e windows which maximize daylight and protect from loss of cooled or heated air, as well as providing a filter for the sun’s rays.

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