In 1969, when The Malibu opened, condominium living was still a new concept.
In fact, Dunbar Builders, which built The Malibu, had built Chicago’s first condominium development, The Fountain View, a low-rise development of 30 four-room apartments on Ridge Avenue, in 1964.
Condominium developments started popping up all over the North Side soon after. On Sheridan Road, the very first was a low-rise at 6121 North Sheridan Road. But Dunbar soon built the first high-rise condo on Sheridan Road, Thorndale Beach, followed quickly by Thorndale Beach South, (5901 and 5855 North Sheridan Road, respectively), which both opened in 1966.
In 1967, Dunbar announced its plans for The Malibu, which it initially claimed would be the largest condominium built to that time in the United States. (That claim disappeared from articles about The Malibu almost as soon as it was made.) Malibu was the fifth high-rise to be built as a condo on Sheridan Road. But Dunbar was busy with condominium projects all over the city, including 1212 North Lake Shore Drive, 201 East Chestnut, and a bevy of low-rise projects.
A history of success, with a dash of hype
According to stories in the Chicago Tribune, a sales office with furnished models opened on March 15, 1967, with groundbreaking taking place on the same day. The cost of the project was put at $12,000,000, equivalent to over $82,500,000 in 2012.
An April 14 Tribune story indicated that the not-yet-built Malibu was on the annual “Festival of Homes.” Likely taken from a Dunbar press release, this story stated that one-bedroom units would start at $23,300, two-bedrooms at $29,400, and three-bedrooms at $33,600.
A January 14, 1968 Tribune story reported that construction had reached the fifth floor. Since the fifth floor was identical to the floors above it, construction was expected to accelerate from there. By the summer of 1968, Sherwin and Sandra Pakin were able to climb stairs to check out the view from a 10th floor “A” unit. (See photos.) The Pakins eventually bought unit 37A.
While The Malibu was going to be impressive in its own right, Dunbar and its nameless copywriters were not above adding a little sizzle to the steak. Drawings of the future building eliminated such inconvenient truths as the buildings next door and across the street, making Sheridan Road look virtually undeveloped (which it certainly was not). The sliding glass doors in every Malibu unit were invariably dubbed “window-walls,” which was something of an overstatement. Kitchens were billed as “all-electric ‘Living Kitchens,” a term of art which apparently meant they had space for a breakfast table. And the original brochure promised “boat launching and storage facilities.” The boat deck was indeed built, but without any way of getting boats into or out of the very shallow, rock-filled water behind the building. It is today used for overflow parking.
Whether the hype helped or not, sales were evidently brisk. By September 14, 1968, a Tribune Festival of Homes story stated that only 34 units were still available. Occupancy was forecast for the spring of 1969.
A history of financial stability
One of the most worrisome aspects of choosing a condominium home is the possibility of the dreaded “special assessment.” In case you don’t know, any condo board can levy a special assessment, over and above the regular assessment, to pay for needed repairs or improvements. Depending on the condominium, the project, and your percentage of ownership, that special assessment can run anywhere from a few extra dollars a month to a five figure sum due on demand.
That’s why it’s comforting to know that, since it opened its doors, The Malibu has never had a special assessment. Never. And while we can’t promise we never will, our reserve fund, currently over $2,000,000 suggests that it won’t happen in the immediate future.
It’s one more way that making your home in one of Chicago’s first condominiums is still a smart decision.