|Real-estate developer Jay Michael atop Wilson Tower (1325 W. Wilson) photo: Chris Strong|
The hallways of Wilson Tower, a 12-story midrise at 1325 West Wilson Avenue, are dank and narrow. The stucco walls haven’t been repainted since the building was erected in 1931, and the carpets smell like mothballs. Down one hall, past an empty motorized wheelchair, an open door reveals an apartment that can’t be more than 300 square feet. A mattress rests on the floor, covered in trash and dollar-store trinkets.
A few doors down, another small unit sits unrented. A lone lightbulb hangs from the ceiling. Behind a stove with food-encrusted burners, layers of grease serve as a caked-on backsplash. A long cobweb stretches from the fridge to the countertop; the door to the cabinet under the sink sits ajar, its hinges almost unscrewed.
In a few months, a shiny electric range will replace the battered stove. The grease will be stripped, and subway tile put in its place. The unit will have a washer/dryer, a sleek new bathtub and light fixtures worthy of a home-design magazine.
The man behind the redesign is Jay Michael, a 31-year-old real-estate developer whose company, Cedar Street, is pioneering a new frontier of housing in Uptown and Edgewater. Michael, along with business partners and childhood best friends Alex Samoylovich and Tom Kim, is buying buildings no other developer wants—abandoned properties in severe disrepair; foreclosed SROs with low-income tenants—and converting these dilapidated spaces into luxury rentals, all of which will operate under a new branch of Cedar dubbed FLATS. Continue Reading