NEAR WEST SIDE — High-end rental units with “West Loop” prices could be coming to a block in Little Italy that used to be home to restaurants including Salatino's and Rico's.
Neighborhood resident Robert Otter wants to split in two a property at 616 S. Racine Ave. and build a new four-story building next to an existing three-flat. The new building will feature five three-bedroom, two-bathroom apartments that will rent for $3,000 a month. Each unit would have a fireplace, skyline views and rooftop access, he said.
That building would be constructed on what is now the side yard of the existing three-flat, which would gain another floor under Otter's plan. Both buildings would have a height of 45 feet, which is seven feet higher than the current building.
“We’re trying to build as nice or nicer than what you would get in the West Loop for the same money or even less,” said Otter, who works for Chicago investment company Third Street AG.
The rents would be higher than other apartments on the block; at least one three-bedroom unit was being advertised for $2,100 recently.
Otter's property sits just north of Salatino’s, restaurateur Scott Harris’ failed Italian spot at 626 S. Racine Ave. that has been empty since the summer of 2012. Becca Lundstrom, a representative at @Properties, the real estate agent for the empty restaurant, said there have been several inquiries, but no takers, for the 16,000 square-foot space, which includes a connected storefront that used to house Dough Boys pizza.
For decades before that, Rico's restaurant had occupied the spot followed by La Scala and two other eateries.
But Otter, who lives down the street from the property, said the empty storefronts don't worry him.
“Between being so close to the energy of the West Loop and quick walk to Target [at 1101 W. Jackson Blvd.], … I think we’re going to make five groups of people very happy,” he said.
Otter applied for a zoning change for the property in early January.
Although he wasn't sure when the project would go before the city, he expects the project to be completed by early next fall.
City officials did not respond to a request for comment.