Luxury for rent: $11,000 a month_and up


Publication: Chicago Sun-Times
Date: February 9, 1998
Author: JOHN CARPENTER    
Section: NEWS
Edition: LATE SPORTS FINAL
Page: 1
Word Count: 842

A strong economy, new tax laws and an increasing number of international business executives pulling stints in Chicago_not
to mention the steady stream of movie stars filming in town_spell boom time for a tiny niche in the real estate world: super
high-end rental housing. Millionaires who could afford to buy and buy big if they wanted to are instead scooping up lavish
apartments, mostly on the Gold Coast and sometimes for five-figure monthly rents.


"This is definitely a trend," said Keith Lord, president of the Lord Cos.

Chicago has nothing to compare with Donald Trump's Manhattan pad, recently put on the market for $100,000 a month
(experts say he probably won't get that much). But how about 4,300 square feet, four bedrooms, 5 1/2 bathrooms and a
gourmet kitchen complete with built-in wine cooler in the old Playboy mansion for a cool $11,000 a month?

Or a five-bedroom graystone on Elm between Lake Shore Drive and State Street_$13,500 every first of the month,
though the owners would rather sell this one for $1.2 million.

A 16-room mansion at 330 W. Wellington was on the market as a rental for $15,000 a month. But it's now under contract
for purchase. The asking price: $3.975 million.

Traditionally, some of the highest rents are for homes that also are for sale or perhaps vacant for a year or two while
owners live abroad, said Barbara Stewart of Rubloff Realtors, considered one of the city's top brokers of high-end rentals.

But straight-up apartments are suddenly hot commodities as a variety of customers are looking for swanky, albeit usually
temporary, downtown digs.

"I've been in this business 18 years, and I've never seen anything like it," Stewart said as she stood in the granite and
mahogany kitchen of a sprawling third-floor unit, one of seven in the old Playboy Mansion at 1340 N. State.

"If walls could talk," Stewart said as she offered a tour of the unit.

Conventional financial wisdom says it makes little sense to rent. The American dream, after all, is to own a home. And
most people sock away money toward the day they can come up with a down payment on a house and stop throwing
away money on a landlord.

But what if you are a wealthy man or woman coming out of a divorce?

What if you are an international business executive in town for only a few years, with a big company's bankroll paying your
rent?

What if you are new in town and ready to buy a lavish home but don't know the area well enough yet to know where to
buy?

Or what if you are giving your mansion a complete overhaul?

Although few people find themselves in such circumstances, some do, and their numbers are growing. That's why these
apartments are getting snapped up, Lord said.

"We have eight or nine little demographic subgroups, and together they make up a nice market," he said.

Lord pointed to the movie industry, which increasingly is using Chicago as a backdrop. At any given time, there are a
handful of stars in town for several weeks or months.

"You're not going to take a top star and put them in any old two-bedroom apartment," he said.

Stewart said Chicago's strong economy is a factor, with more and more executives from around the country and around
the world moving here for corporate assignments.

"More and more, Chicago is becoming an international city," she said.

Rubloff President Jim McKinney said new capital gains tax laws allow up to $500,000 of profit on a home sale to be
deducted_actually $250,000 per person, $500,000 for a couple. And some wealthy couples looking to downsize their
home or perhaps move downtown are using that windfall to justify a big rent.

"They can rent for a period of time, then maybe go back into the market to buy," McKinney said. "They can downsize to a
rental or maybe a smaller unit without the tax consequences."

Lord agreed, saying some couples are selling their large suburban homes, buying a vacation home and renting downtown.
Most of the city's elite apartments are, as one would expect, along the Gold Coast.

Just what do you get for $11,000 a month? The four-bedroom unit in the old Playboy mansion is in the heart of the Gold
Coast, just a few blocks from Lake Michigan, Rush Street entertainment and Michigan Avenue shopping.

Inside the unfurnished apartment, the floors are pristine oak. One bedroom features the oak-paneled walls Hugh Hefner
was famous for back when the mansion featured a party room with a trap door that dropped into the basement pool. (The
pool area is now used for parking.)

Every bedroom in the house has its own full bath. And the master suite has his-and-hers bathrooms, one with a steam
shower and the other with a large Jacuzzi.

The kitchen features a six-burner stove, two ovens, a Sub-Zero freezer, a warming drawer for bread and a floor-to-ceiling
wine cooler. There also are a large patio and a dining room complete with a glittering chandelier.

Pets are not allowed, even though bunnies once had the run of the place.
Barbara Stewart gives a tour of an apartment in the old Playboy Mansion, 1340 N. State, that rents for $11,000 a month.
It's not the most expensive in the neighborhood, either.

AL PODGORSKI


Copyright 1998 Chicago Sun-Times, Inc.