If you’re not familiar with Chicago blues, the new Chess Lofts and Aristocrat Tower developments might bring to mind brainiacs in suspenders and elitists in furs. But to those in the know, these residential projects elicit the melodies of Chuck Berry, Muddy Waters and the Rolling Stones. The names of the new South Loop projects refer to the legendary blues label that grew in Chicago after World War II. Brothers Leonard and Phil Chess began recording Chicago talent in 1947 under the Aristocrat label and renamed their company Chess Records in 1950. The new residential projects, which are part of the Prairie Station development, do not include the Chess studio whose address the Rolling Stones made famous in their instrumental “2120 South Michigan Avenue,” but other Chess facilities. “Chess Records historically had offices on South Michigan Avenue but this building (Chess Lofts) was used for back-of-the-house record production, storage (and) distribution,” said Allen Olsen, spokesman for Aristocrat architect Warman Development & Design. “That was one of the main reasons we wanted to preserve the building rather than demolish it.” K2N Crest was the renovation architect for the transformation of the eight-story former blues hub at 320 E 21st St into the 188-unit Chess Lofts. The exterior will preserve the original architecture with recessed balconies and an “industrial aesthetic,” according to Olsen. The loft condos will have ceiling heights of more than 11 feet, exposed timber beams and open floor plans. Homes also feature one to two bedrooms, one to two baths, granite countertops, maple cabinets, oversized windows, soaking tubs and private balconies. The building will include heated indoor parking, bicycle storage and private lockers. Ranging from 634 to 1,167 square feet, homes at Chess Lofts are priced from the upper $100s to the mid-$500s. While Aristocrat may be the older of the music labels it will be the newer of the two buildings at Prairie Station. Olsen described the new-construction Aristocrat Tower as a 25-story “art deco redux.” “(It’s) art deco-inspired with a contemporary flair, using brick masonry corners (and) painted concrete in the center,” he said. The 146-unit condominium building will be located at 2039 S Prairie. The homes are priced from the high $100s to the mid-$800s and include studios, one-bedrooms, two-bedrooms and penthouses. They include balconies, hardwood floors, nine-foot ceiling heights, granite counters, designer maple cabinets, soaking tubs, oversized windows and glass-enclosed stand-alone showers. The building will have a landscaped roof deck with a grill, an indoor dog run, a bicycle storage room, private storage lockers and 165 secured heated indoor parking spaces, priced from $30,000 to $40,000 each.”
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