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Developer to Renovate Blue Star Auto Sales into 'Lower Cost' Apartments

 Renderings from Windy City RE reveal their plans for two properties in the South Loop.
Blue Star Auto Sales Renovations
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SOUTH LOOP — Developer Windy City RE hopes to renovate the Blue Star Auto Sales shop at 2001 S. State St. into a mixed-use building with 25 apartments and 20,500 square feet of retail space.

Windy City RE bought the historic building that once housed the Cullerton Hotel, and the adjacent property at 2000 S. Wabash Ave., in November, and plans to renovate both into mixed-use buildings without adding any height or altering the current structures' footprints, principal Joshua Rubenstein said.

Rather than tearing down the building at 2001 S. State St. that was built in 1878, Windy City RE "will be replacing nearly every exterior brick on the property" and renovating extensively, Rubenstein said. Aside from the auto shop, much of the building is vacant.

"We're a company that likes to reuse the existing buildings whenever possible. We don't usually do ground-up construction," he said. "We find that for us there's greater value in keeping the existing building. ... In this case there's also a bit of a historical angle."

At 2000 S. Wabash Ave., the development team plans to build an additional three apartments atop ground-level retail space. Adjacent to the Wabash Avenue property, a shared parking lot will service both buildings.

Rubenstein said most new developments coming to the South Loop are luxury apartments — and that's precisely why his group's vision for residences in this two-building project is more modest.

"We're putting a different style of apartment than what's down there right now: It's a smaller apartment that is at a much lower price point," he said. 

Both buildings will be mostly three-bedroom, two-bathroom "European-style apartments, so it's a little bit more compact," priced about $2,200 apiece per month.

"It's something that doesn't exist in the neighborhood, so it's definitely a unique opportunity for young families and young individuals to get into the neighborhood who otherwise wouldn't be able to," Rubenstein said.

Big changes coming to the South Loop make the area ripe for real estate growth. Projects currently in the works steps from the development site include a 10,000-seat basketball arena for DePaul University, a new hotel and a new green line CTA station at Cermak Road between Indiana and Michigan avenues.

"Right now we're still talking to the alderman and trying to get everything approved," Rubenstein said. Once his team get permits from the city, they expect the build-out to take just under a year.

A representative for Blue Star said the shop will remain open until developers secure their permits and can begin construction.

Windy City RE has about 1,000 residential units scattered in Logan Square, Bucktown, Wicker Park and Lakeview, Rubenstein said, and is focusing its energies on buying properties in the South Loop and Pilsen, neighborhoods they see as poised for growth.