The Ceiling Of The World Is For Rent In Chicago

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Everything seems higher in Chicago, but when I saw the NEMA Chicago, I realized the sky was also for rent. Usually the highest of the highest residential skyscrapers are condos. This new building changes that. First of all, it’s 896 feet tall and the tallest rental building in the city. It has an indoor/outdoor Skyline Terrace on the 48th floor that includes an indoor pool (the outdoor pool is on the 16th floor).

The building is located at the southern edge of Grant Park and just off famed Michigan Avenue. Like so many other older cities, the building sits atop railroad land (like New York’s Hudson Yards). Because of the building’s orientation, the highest floors can see the lake almost cupping the city in its blue hand.

The hoi polloi reside in one of the 674 apartments on floors 2 to 47 that range from a 417 square foot studio to 2703 square foot four bedroom. Rents begin at $1,901 and top out at $14,900.

NEMA’s largest 4-bedroom unit

Meanwhile, if you want to lease closer to the stars, there are the 126 apartments on floors 49 to 76 in the Skyline Collection that comes with its own lobby. Rents here are as high as the units with 1,256 square foot two bedrooms starting at $6,699 per month. The largest units are the 2,703 square foot four bedrooms starting at $19,975 and topping out at a gusty $25,000 ($9.25 per square foot) on floors 71, 72 and 75 with three-sides of windows.

Me? I need to get to the bowling alley before they run out of my shoe size.

The architect is Uruguay-born Rafael Viñoly whose works include Las Vegas’ Vdara, London’s Walkie Talkie and 432 Park Avenue in New York. The NEMA is a riff/homage to Chicago’s Sears (Willis) Tower in that its structure is comprised of a bunch of square “tubes” of varying height. But while Sears is dark glass, NEMA is bright.

Inside a Skyline Collection unit and the nest finished abound – they have to. Terraces are generous with partial sliding glass wall – you don’t need too much at this height, winds can be very strong.

But not to worry, even on the regular, non-Skyline Collection floors, the views can be just as tremendous. Here you’re looking straight up Grant Park and right at the Standard Oil Building (now called Aon Center). Off to the right is Lake Michigan.

As you can just make out, a VERY few units have outdoor terraces where a section of the building ends. With glass walls to abate the wind, the views from these special spaces are glorious and rarely seen outside a public observation deck.

Keeping with the Skyline vibe, here’s the 48th floor Skyline Terrace capturing endless views of Lake Michigan, Grant Park and the city skyline. In a crowded city, these types of long views are as coveted as they are pricey. Behind the glass are more amenity spaces including the Chicago Room located behind a sliding glass wall behind the terrace.

Down on the main amenity space (there are 70,000 square feet of amenities here) there’s the outdoor pool shielded from wind by the building and glass railings.

Also on the floor is the Urban Lounge with a show kitchen in the background. This is where you sit by the large, see-thru fireplace (right) on a cold Chicago winter’s day. In addition to these expected amenities, there’s a sports lounge called The Station, an enormous workout room with full sized boxing ring and golf simulator. There’s also a co-working space (for those winter days you don’t want to commute) and a kids area for when you don’t want them either.  

If you love luxury and height – and need a Chicago rental for extensive work travel or a child entering one of Chicago’s world class universities (and you have the money), The NEMA is worth a look. If you like the NEMA experience but not Chicago, there are NEMAs in San Francisco, Boston, Los Angeles, Miami and Seattle. For the rest of us, an invitation to dinner would be very welcome.