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As a longtime Naperville resident, Kelly Dichristofano regularly savored that community's Riverwalk.
Having grown accustomed to being near water, she didn't hesitate when given a chance to buy a unit at The Front Street Lofts, a brand-new development in Lemont.
Not coincidentally, Dichristofano chose a one-bedroom loft with a view of the Illinois & Michigan Canal, the historic waterway rolling past her new doorstep.
In Dichristofano's estimate, Lemont stands to become "the next Naperville," given its picturesque waterfront setting. And she intends to take full advantage of the Canal Walk next to the waterway.
"It's a different atmosphere," she said. "You don't get a lot of water views in many suburbs. This is peaceful and calming, walking out and seeing water as opposed to another building or an average street."
She said she plans to use the Canal Walk "as my new running path, and it will be a great path for my dog as well."
Dichristofano's quest to plant roots near water is nearly a universal goal.
Worldwide, homes on oceans, lakes, rivers, ponds and other waterways are among the most avidly sought anywhere.
The National Association of Home Builders recently gauged the premium attached to American waterfront homes and found it is considerable.
Using a statistical model to estimate the impacts of both general location and specific neighborhood amenities, the builders group studied a standard new home built in a Midwestern suburb.
Testing the effects of several attractive amenities on that home, the association found the single greatest upward influence on a home's price is a location on a body of water.
The estimated price of the baseline home with no special locational amenities was $212,137. But moving that same house to an otherwise similar neighborhood on a waterfront elevated the price to $303,760.
By contrast, adequate nearby public transportation, the amenity with the second-greatest upward impact on pricing, raised the estimated price to a comparatively modest $238,340.
The price of the home in a Midwestern suburb rose by 43 percent, or $92,000, when placed near water. The same home in a non-metropolitan community in the South climbed 44 percent, or $75,000.
In a California metropolitan area, the price ballooned by 41 percent, or $243,000.
Bryan Nooner, chairman of Orland Park-based home developer Distinctive Cos., says his firm has built many residential developments along lakes, ponds or other bodies of water.
"And one thing's for sure," he said. "The vast majority of people, if they had their choice, would choose to live along water in one form or another."
According to Nooner, "it's a soothing natural element people love to gather around. It's part of our makeup as people. Around the world, people flock to water."
The Front Street Lofts, Dichristofano's new home, will be part of Lemont's Downtown Redevelopment Plan, offering residential, retail and office development along the canal.
The redevelopment's first phase will produce The Front Street Lofts' four five-story buildings, 82 loft residences, 24,000 square feet of retail space and a 262-car parking structure.
Delivering one-, two- and three-bedroom units priced from the low $200,000s to the upper $400,000s, The Front Street Lofts will welcome its first move-ins this fall
From the lofts, "there are views in most directions," said Bruno Bottarelli, one of the managing directors of Naperville-based Marquette Cos., the developer that created the redevelopment's master plan along Lemont's waterways.
"Most views look down on the canals and from some of the upper floors you see the Sanitary & Ship Canal and the Des Plaines River. There are a number of water features in downtown Lemont that the master plan attempts to capture."
The waterways will help make Lemont a vibrant place in which to live, dine and shop. Unlike most municipalities, which reserve the area next to waterways as places for passive recreation parks, Lemont is using the water "to facilitate economic growth by putting cafes, retail and residences right along the water, the way San Antonio does," Bottarelli said. "And we've integrated park space right into the Canal Walk."
As Dichristofano noted, "There will be many things to do right out my front door. It's peaceful, but it's not going to be a 'quiet town' by any means."
The Front Street Lofts aren't the only new waterfront homes on the southwestern fringes of Chicagoland. Butternut Ridge in Manhattan is a lakeside community of 155 single-family homes to be built over the next two years by Distinctive Cos.
More than two dozen of the homes will incorporate walkout basements backing on picturesque lakes. A creek with a wooded conservation area and walking paths meanders between the lakes. The development's three- to five-bedroom ranches and two-story homes will sell for $240,000 to $350,000, Nooner said.
The Residences at the Shorewood Towne Center in Shorewood, also developed by Distinctive Cos., offers some 340 single-family lots, almost two dozen of which back on small lakes circled by a two-mile walking path.
About 15 of the lots have homes under construction, with the remaining homes to be built over a five-year period, Nooner said.
The community is part of the new Shorewood Towne Center development that will create the "real" downtown Shorewood has never had, Nooner said, featuring retail and restaurants along the waterfront. Prices range from $290,000 to $450,000.
Up north, one of the new developments offering waterfront residences is The Cottages at Newport Cove, a community in unincorporated Lake County with an Antioch address.
This planned unit development stands along Bluff Lake, one of the smaller of the Chain O' Lakes, which feeds into Lake Marie, one of the chain's larger bodies of water, said Susanne Tauke, president of New American Homes Inc. in Hawthorn Woods.
When complete, the 42-acre community will feature three neighborhoods and 67 homes. The first of the three neighborhoods is The Waterfront, with 21 homesites along 1,800 feet of waterfront. The second is The Estate, which features 15 lots situated just off the water. The third is The Cottages, with 31 smaller maintenance-free one-level homes removed from the water. Residents of The Cottages, like all other homeowners in Newport Cove, will have water rights allowing them to boat at Bluff Lake.
"This area used to be a marina and camper-trailer park," Tauke said. "Ten or 12 years ago, the Army Corps of Engineers fixed the number of boat slips at the current number.
As a result, boat slips are a hot commodity. At the marina, which can only be used by the people who own homes and live there, we have 192 boat slips."
Adjacent to the marina, an 8-acre waterfront park beckons to boaters. The park features a white-pillared stone pavilion offering an outdoor kitchen and washrooms.
Prices of homes in the The Cottages start at $362,000. Lots in The Waterfront start at $350,000, and lots in The Estates begin at $120,000, she added.
Rolling Meadows-based Kimball Hill homes is featuring five Chicago-area new-home communities with waterfront homes, including McHenry's Legend Lakes.
According to Kimball Hill sales manager Ruth Stefl, Legend Lakes boasts more than 84 acres of lakes and three distinct communities of homes. Country Townes is a neighborhood of maintenance-free two-story town homes ranging from 1,445 to 1,987 square feet and base-priced from $180,990 to $203,990. Two other neighborhoods, Homestead Collection and The Preserve, offer detached single-family houses. Almost half the homes in The Preserve back up to one of the lakes, Stefl said.
Legend Lakes' waterways feature walking paths, open space parks, playing fields and playground areas. Eye-catching lighted aerators make the lakes even more bewitching at twilight, Stefl said. "It's a beautiful setting," she added. "There's a sense of tranquility. Homeowners have a greater sense of privacy, because there's nothing behind their homes but the lake. I've been out there at nightfall, and there's nothing more beautiful than a sunset across the lake. It's priceless."
Neumann Homes' Clublands of Antioch is yet one more far north-northwest suburban waterfront development. Home buyers enjoy a selection of homesites on 47-acre White Lake, the largest of 16 water features in the development, and can access the lake's lengthy shoreline walking path from their backyards.
The community's 8,000-square-foot clubhouse stands at water's edge, providing residents use of canoes and paddleboats, and also offering a wraparound observation deck from which to view over-the-water sunsets.
"It's an awesome place to go to see the serene views," said Jean Neumann, chief marketing officer for Warrenville-based Neumann Homes. "It's beautiful to see the birds and deer in the early mornings and later afternoons. It's a wonderful ambience."
Homes at Clublands of Antioch are base-priced from $229,990 to $407,990.