Architect Sees Field of Dreams in Suburban Downtowns

By Jean Murphy
Daily Herald Correspondent

In the early 1990s, architect and urban planner David Strosberg recognized that the downtown areas of Chicago’s many suburbs were little more than lost opportunities.

Strip shopping centers and malls had turned many town centers into places where residents waited for the train each morning.

“I saw these suburban downtowns as the perfect place to build mid-rise condominiums for people who want to stay in the community where they raised their children, “ he said. Maintenance-free living with conveniences within walking distance were big selling points in Strosberg’s vision.

“Today these downtown areas are recognized by their municipalities as great opportunities, “said Strosberg, who started his Morningside Development Group in Chicago in 1993.

His projects include a 21-unit condominium building in downtown Skokie, Morningside Terrace in Evanston and the Glen Astor in Glen Ellyn.

Lives in: Chicago

Dream House: A year and half ago he bought a 20-year-old loft in Chicago, which he’s rehabbing in his spare time.

Favorite new home amenity: He is getting more requests for his-and-her master baths attached to the master bathroom.

Goals: “To provide a good return to our investors and to provide a quality product to our residential and retail customers.”

Formula for success: “Build uncommonly good homes in locations that are second to none – and concentrate on the details. Be committed to the buyer’s total satisfaction. Work hard to give buyers what they want to assure their long term comfort and assure their long-term comfort and to assure enduring satisfaction.”

Biggest Project: Museum Square in Elmhurst will have 56 condominium and town home units.

Best part about being a developer: “There is a lot of satisfaction involved when a new homeowner moves in and you know that you have had a significant impact on their life.”

Hardest Part about being a developer: “In virtually every municipality, there are groups that are lined up against any new development. Sometimes it is simply due to a fear of change. Sometimes it is due to an objection to a particular development. Either way, it can be very difficult because these people often exert a lot of pressure on the elected officials to simply do nothing instead of to act in a proactive manner.”

If only the public knew: “The key to making a downtown area successful is to have people actually living there – as long as the development is done in the proper scale and density. People often worry that new development is going to ‘steal the charm’ of a town’s downtown. But that charm is made up, in no small way, of the retailers you find there and the historic buildings located there and both of these have to be supported economically in order to survive.”

Future Plans: “We like our niche. We may look at expanding to other metro areas like Detroit and Minneapolis, but Chicago will still be our core.”

The Market: Empty-nesters in Chicago’s suburban downtowns and young professionals in the Detroit area.

Price Range: Low $200,000s to the mid-$400,000s.

Volume: About 100 units per year.

Currently Building: A five-story cast stone base structure at Main Street and Maple Avenue in downtown Downers Grove. The distinctive brick structure will include 40 residences with six floor plans, ranging in size from 1, 251 to 1,918 square feet. All plans have two bedrooms and two bathrooms and most include family rooms and eat-in breakfast rooms.

Construction on “Museum Square, “ a joint venture with Teng Associates, will soon begin in downtown Elmhurst. The project features 56 condominiums and town houses.

Strosberg is also redeveloping a three-block area of Royal Oak, Mich., which will include 125,000 square feet of retail, 75,000 square feet of office space and 84 loft condominium residences for young professionals.

Membership: Home Builders Association of Greater Chicago, the Urban Land Institute and the American Institute of Architects.

Web Design by