‘Co-living’ renters share kitchens and bathrooms to make downtown more affordable

CHICAGO — The average one bedroom apartment in downtown Chicago runs about $2,200 a month — more than most pay in a home mortgage — so new co-living condos are giving tenants the chance to get the same view for significantly less.

In co-living spaces like Quarters in Fulton Market, residents bunk with a bunch of strangers in return for a place that would normally be way out of budget. Every modern unit comes fully-equipped. There's a rooftop deck with a fireplace and swings overlooking a killer view. A shared high-end kitchen comes stocked with forks, knives and plates.

These co-living condos are serving up exactly what millennials like Lukas Stolberg are looking for.

"I came here with three suitcases, a towel and that was it," Stolberg said. "Why do I need my own living room when I'm only going to be there a few hours a day. I could share it and meet new people which is way more fun."

At first glance, the swanky digs look a little like "The Real World" with a bunch of young adults sharing one place, but this concept has been around far longer, and is already hugely successful in European cities. German developer Gunther Schmidt is banking that Chicago will get on board.

"The sharing aspect just has so many advantages because you're not spending as much but still get a huge package that you wouldn't be able to afford otherwise," Schmidt said.

Demand is so high, Quarters opened jut over a month ago and is already nearly 80 percent full. Schmidt, who also runs co-living apartments in Berlin, Amsterdam, Munich and Frankfort, said demand in Chicago is even higher than it was in New York.

"We're working very intensely on securing new locations as I've said because it's been working tremendously well," Schmidt said.

Their clientele is typically young professionals who want to be in the heart of the city, but can't afford the steep price tags. Construction has been booming throughout Fulton Market area, the Loop and Printers Row for years. Along with it, rents have risen, with one bedrooms averaging close to $2,200. Millennials are often priced out of the most desirable areas.

For $999 a month, Ashley has her own private room and all the amenities, even if the bathrooms are common property. Tenants can literally show up with nothing more than a toothbrush and be move in ready.

"It comes with a bed and night stand, closet and a desk and there's shelving for you to keep your books," she said.

And unlike the rest of the apartment, the amazing view from her room is all hers.

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