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Amber Building Grabbed by Downtown Firm Looking for East Village Annex

By Alisa Hauser | March 4, 2015 11:41am
 The Amber Building at 1620 W. Chicago Ave. in East Village.
Amber Building in East Village
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EAST VILLAGE — A Downtown company has leased a significant chunk of the reopened 1920s-era Amber Building on the northeast corner of Chicago and Marshfield avenues to provide an "annex" or satellite spot for their workers.

"I have been asked by my tenant not to disclose anything yet, but the same company has taken the first and second floors," said Kevin Miske, owner of Building Blocks, a construction firm that specializes in the renovation of historic buildings.

The recently inked 5-year lease includes an additional 10 years of lease-renewal options, signifying a long-term commitment at the complex, which opened over the summer and currently rents to four small businesses on the third floor.

Miske, a Garfield Park resident, bought the building at 1620 W. Chicago Ave. — along a slowly changing stretch of Chicago Avenue — for $875,000 in 2012, according to county records.

Last week, a sign advertising "Annex" went up in the window, piquing curiosity from passersby.

Miske said the new tenant, which also has an office Downtown, is renting out 15,200 square feet so its employees can have an annex or satellite gathering spot. The tenant put the Annex sign in the window and plans to open the office in July, he said.

Previous plans to bring a restaurant to the first floor of the building, which were in infancy stages last spring, have been scrapped and the building's emphasis is now on office spaces.

"I'm very bullish on Chicago Avenue and happy I was able to find a world-class company that also sees the vision that I have for Chicago Avenue," Miske said.

Miske said he has pumped $2.5 million into the renovation of the once-blighted building that features a restored terra cotta facade, paid for in part with $15,000 from the Special Service Area No. 29, a tax levy.

"It was pretty dirty," said Kace Wakem, a representative from the chamber's Special Service Area district said last year. "It needed a lot of love, and they really brightened it up."

Photos courtesy of Miske:

Currently the four offices being rented on the third floor are used by small business owners who work in the technology and marketing industries.

Miske said many of the building's tenants live in the surrounding area and none, to his knowledge, drive cars to work. Most walk to work and the site offers indoor bike parking.

Only three office spots, ranging from 450 to 750 square feet, are still available for rent.

Amenities advertised on the building's website include coffee from nearby Asado Coffee, 1651 W. Chicago Ave., 100Mbps Internet, mail and phone service, Herman Miller office furniture design, indoor bike parking and craft beer socials.

Located just west of the Chicago and Ashland avenues intersection, the building was built in 1926 for the Amber Furniture Company, which owned several stores in Chicago and closed in the 1960s. Prior to Miske buying the building, it was empty for at least a decade, he said.

So far, the bulk of feedback Miske has received about the building has been "very positive," he said.

"People call me to say thank you and that they've looked at it this building for years thinking something should be done with it. For whatever reason, Chicago Avenue has been slower to develop and still lags 10 years behind other areas. I hope to be one of the forces that changes that," Miske said.

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