Multifamily N Illinois

Sterling Bay partners with Skender to bring modular affordable housing projects to Chicago’s West Side

A prototype module in Skender’s construction manufacturing facility. A prototype module in Skender’s construction manufacturing facility.
Skender's modular facility, scheduled to open next week. Skender's modular facility, scheduled to open next week.
Inside the prototype module in Skender’s construction manufacturing facility. Inside the prototype module in Skender’s construction manufacturing facility.

Sterling Bay will build an 83-unit apartment building and 10 three-flats on Chicago’s West Side, all offering affordable housing units, with another 100 or more affordable housing projects to follow all around the city. The developer announced their plans to partner with Skender, using their modular construction approach, just as that company’s Little Village manufacturing center is set to open next week.

“We believe all Chicagoans should have the opportunity to live in well-designed homes that are affordable and enhance the surrounding neighborhood,” said Andy Gloor, CEO of Sterling Bay. “Skender has thoughtfully addressed how to deliver affordable housing in a way that is effective and scalable and can make a real difference across the city of Chicago.”

Construction should begin early next year on the seven-story apartment building, located at 1100 West Grand Avenue, with completion by the end of 2020. The three-flats will include two-bedroom/one-bathroom apartments with rents capped at 60 percent of the city’s area median income, equating to approximately $41,000 for a two-person household. Once Skender’s manufacturing facility is running at its peak next year, Sterling Bay plans to align with non-profit property managers to build affordable housing on over 100 vacant lots throughout the city.

The idea of modular construction is that the building process takes place in a controlled environment, where the design, building and technology processes are all standardized. This approach also cuts down on weather-related delays as the factory floor is climate controlled. Skender launched a manufacturing arm last March and has been busy building a 130,000-square-foot manufacturing facility at 3348 S. Pulaski Avenue. The space, which is set to open next Tuesday, is able to turn incoming materials into finished building modules in as little as five days.

The first 3,750-square-foot three-flat should be completed at 640 N. Ridgeway Avenue in the city’s Humboldt Park neighborhood by the end of August. Skender plans to turn out a new three-flat every two months. The steel-frame three-flats for Sterling Bay will be completed and ready for occupancy in a nine-week production schedule—80 percent faster than conventional construction methods—and at a 5 to 20 percent lower project cost, depending on the comparable delivery method.

“Like with any other product manufacturing company, our models will get better and better each year,” said Skender CEO, Mark Skender. “The first round of three-flats are our 2019 model, and in 2020 we’ll make improvements to our design and construction techniques.”

Sterling Bay, which has made headlines lately for their development of the Lincoln Yards megaproject, recently announced plans to develop several projects on the South Side with DL3 Realty, though details of that partnership have yet to be disclosed. Some of the new affordable housing units that Sterling Bay plans to build in its partnership with Skender may help satisfy the hundreds of off-site affordable units that the developer will need to provide as part of the Lincoln Yards project.

A recent report by DePaul University’s Institute for Housing Studies shows that Chicago still suffers a dearth of affordable housing options. While the affordability gap is slowly shrinking, that is actually an artifact of low-income residents fleeing the city, according to the report, and the affordability gap has yet to reach pre-recession levels.

“We believe this is consistent with Mayor Lightfoot’s initiatives,” said Skender, who was a member of the newly inaugurated mayor’s housing transition committee. “Our approach is a significant opportunity to start solving the problem of affordable housing.”