WEST TOWN — A vintage building in West Town's Eckhart Park that formerly was anchored by Italian restaurant Natalino's sold for $3.45 million on Monday, according to its new owners who plan to bring 15 apartments and a restaurant to the site.
Robert Sekula and Eric Turrin, partners at North Park Ventures, and Chad Tepley of CDT Realty, bought the 153-year-old building at 1523 W. Chicago Ave. for $3.45 million in a joint venture with Next Realty, Sekula said.
"It's one of the most prominent buildings you see as you drive from Downtown along Chicago Avenue into Ukrainian Village. That was one of our initial draws to the property," Sekula said.
Located just east of Ashland Avenue at the southwest corner of Chicago Avenue and Armour Street, the building has eight apartments above the shuttered Natalino's, which closed five years ago and has been empty since, despite rumors of a reopening.
Sekula said all but one of the apartments have been vacated, and the final occupied unit will be free by the end of this month.
Construction to create 15 apartments out of the building's existing six will start within 30 days, and if everything goes as planned, the new apartments will be ready by next summer.
No changes will be made to the outside of the building. Citing documents from their appraiser, Tepley said the building was constructed in 1864, making it a historic pre-Chicago Fire structure. The Chicago Fire was in 1871.
"It's not a landmark building, but it's a beautiful brick building. We love these traditional Chicago timber buildings. It's classic Chicago, and outside of touching up the facade and minor tuckpointing, it's staying the same on the facade," Tepley said.
The apartments, a mix of one- and two-bedrooms, will range from 600-900 square feet.
Similar to the eight loft apartments above the former Rothschild's Liquors that North Park Ventures and CDT Realty opened last spring, the rentals will offer exposed brick walls, stainless steel appliances, hardwood floors, Nest thermostats and modern plumbing and lighting fixtures.
"They won't be regular cookie cutter apartments," Tepley said, adding, "We may also do a rooftop patio which would have unobstructed views of the skyline."
The average rent will be about $1,900, and the largest apartments will ask $2,600.
Tepley said anticipated rents are based on the rents above the former Rothschild Liquors at 1532 W. Chicago Ave., across the street from Natalino's.
"We leased all of the [Rothschild] apartments in three weeks. We were surprised at the fast market response. People seemed to love the adaptive reuse project, the layouts and the renovations," Tepley said.
The former Rothschild Liquors building was built in 1867. An excavation behind the building where the tavern's latrines once were unearthed animal bones, vintage glass bottles and more treasures.
A dilapidated coach house behind the former Natalino's building will be demolished to make room for nine parking spaces as part of the plan. Tepley said that they are eager to again partner with West Town-based Urban Remains see if any more treasures will be unearthed during the coach house demolition.
As for the ground floor, Tepley said "some well-known Chicago restaurant groups" have expressed interest in leasing out the 3,900 square feet of ground-level retail space, almost fully built out from the previous restaurant with a bar, built-in seating, walk in coolers and kitchens.
"The Chicago Avenue strip is blowing up right now. We feel very confident in Chicago Avenue. We want to find a good fit for the building, a great [restaurant] operator," Tepley said.
Sekula added, "We continue to believe and invest in Chicago Avenue in West Town as it has the potential to be a destination for shopping, dining, and entertainment, while being an attractive neighborhood for young professionals and families to reside in."
Eteri Zaslavsky, managing director at Next Realty, said that her group is looking forward to the project as well.
“Next Realty is excited to team with North Park Ventures and CDT Realty and be an active part of this neighborhood’s future,” Zaslavsky said.
Jeffrey Malk, a Pilsen-based real estate investor who county records show bought the former Natalino's building in August 2016 for $2.25 million, could not be reached for comment on the sale to Sekula, Tepley and Zaslavsky.
Elsewhere on Chicago Avenue, Beatnik opened earlier this month at 1604 W. Chicago Ave. in the former Mecca Discount Clothing.