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3L secures permit for resi conversion of Johnson Publishing Building

Johnson Publishing Building (Credit: Google Maps)

3L Real Estate secured a permit to convert a 12-story South Loop office building into a 150-unit residential building, six months after the Rosemont-based developer bought the former publishing house from Columbia College.

3L plans to renovate the 47-year-old concrete building at 820 South Michigan Avenue in an effort the developer said will cost about $15 million. Columbia bought the property from Johnson Publishing in 2010, but school officials decided to sell instead after they began interior demolition work.

Columbia closed an $11 million sale to 3L in November, records show. The developer then took out a nearly $20 million loan from Citizens Bank.

The general contractor listed for the project is United Insulated Structures Corp.

The brutalist office building, designed by Mies Van der Rohe protege John Warren Moutoussamy, spent decades as the publishing headquarters for Ebony and Jet magazines before it was sold to Columbia. It remains the only downtown high-rise to have been designed by a black architect, according to Curbed Chicago.

In November, the City Council unanimously voted to declare the Johnson Publishing Building a historic landmark, cementing the presence of the iconic “EBONY / JET” sign on its roof.

Representatives of 3L did not immediately respond to a request for comment on Tuesday, but CEO Joe Slezak told the Chicago Tribune in November that he hoped to bring the apartments online in summer 2019.

Rents for the studio, one-bedroom and two-bedroom apartments would range from $1,200 to $2,700, Slezak told the newspaper.

The project represents 3L’s second residential conversion in the South Loop since 2016, when the developer bought a five-story brick warehouse at 57 East 21st Street and proposed more than 100 apartments for the space.

The South Loop is seeing a swarm of new residential and commercial construction, including high-profile projects like the 76-story, 792-unit NEMA Chicago; Essex on the Park, a 56-story, 479-unit rental tower; and a 74-story, 323-unit condo tower known as 1000M at 1000 South Michigan Avenue.

In the past month alone, CMK scored zoning approval for a pair of residential buildings totaling 199 units at 45-59 East 14th Street, and D2 Realty unveiled a plan to build a 173-unit apartment building alongside the $1.2 billion Southbank development at 600 South Wells Street.

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