Condo spas that raise the bar on amenities

Pressure and stress are natural byproducts of the mile-a-minute world in which we live. Ringing phones, traffic jams and last-minute deadlines jangle our nerves, put us on edge, and leave us yearning for peace and quiet.

What we need are tranquil places to renew and revive, to relieve stress, and replenish our serenity before the next harried workday.

Such oases can be hard to find. But for some Chicago-area condominium residents, they are a mere elevator ride away. At these developments, you can find pools, saunas, steam rooms, Jacuzzis, fitness centers or other soothing havens befitting resorts.

Upscale spas in condo buildings represent a big change from the past, said Ralph Oliva, real estate agent at Chicago's Coldwell Banker Residential Brokerage Lincoln Park Plaza and director of sales for Enterprise Cos.' properties, including Walton on the Park and Museum Park.

"Developers used to get away with an exercise room and small TV. Now it's grand space, which is being demanded by buyers," he said, adding developers have "gone from simple exercise rooms to whole environments."

For residents of Astoria Tower Residences and Spa in the South Loop, there's no need for health club memberships. Nor is there any reason to leave the building for spa amenities, said Jim Psyhogios, vice president and broker for Weichert Realtors-Frankel & Giles.

The 30-story, art deco-style high-rise building, at 9th and State streets, which opened in January, features a $3 million "spa life center" spanning more than 12,000 square feet.

It includes a swimming pool, fitness center, yoga studio, sauna, steam room, hair salon and barber shop, massage room, nail salon, men's and women's shower and changing areas, and more than 1,900 square feet of landscaped terraces.

The spa amenities are centered on the building's 10th floor, where floor-to-ceiling windows offer sweeping panoramas of the cityscape and lakefront.

There's an indoor pool for water aerobics and laps, with a hot tub close by. From there, residents can head to the terraces to catch some rays in warmer months, or to the spa lounge during cooler seasons.

After a dip, there's an opportunity to visit the coed sauna or locker rooms with steam rooms. The fitness center is equipped with free weights, treadmills, elliptical trainers and bikes, where residents can watch TV or gaze out at the lake as they conduct their regimens.

Massage, hair and nail professionals from spa provider Urban Oasis serve the facility on an on-call basis.

Residents also have access to the ninth-floor golf center, featuring a hitting net and putting green; the eighth-floor game room; and the sixth-floor library, Psyhogios said.

Fifty-eight of the 248 units in Astoria Tower are under contract, with 40 residences occupied, Psyhogios said.

Optima Old Orchard Woods in Skokie is another development where condo owners can relax and rejuvenate in their own building.

The 675-unit structure, distinguished by three 20-story towers, features a two-story swimming pool room with Jacuzzi spas and a sun deck. Occupying the second and third floors on the building's south side, this glass-enclosed room looks out on thick woods whose foliage is mirrored on the waters of the pool.

"All the natural light, and the woods reflecting on the surface of the pool, gives you a feeling of relaxation," said Optima Old Orchard Woods vice president Matt Cison.

Fitness facilities on the penthouse 19th floors of each of the structure's residential towers have east-facing windows. That orientation lets residents view landscaped "sky gardens," as well as North Shore landmarks, the Chicago skyline and Lake Michigan, while working off calories and inches on cardio and weight-training machines, exercise bicycles and treadmills.

Now almost 80 percent occupied, Optima Old Orchard Woods offers a wide array of unit sizes, floor plans and prices, from one-bedroom condos to 3,000-square-foot homes, with options available for combination units.

About 25 percent of the building comprises one- and three-bedroom condos, with the remainder made up of two-bedroom units, Cison said.

Walton on the Park at 2 W. Delaware St., and Museum Park at Columbus Drive and Roosevelt Road, are two more recent arrivals on the Chicago scene that offer spa-like packages of amenities, Oliva said.

For instance, at Walton on the Park, a 201-unit building overlooking Newberry Library and Washington Square, the seventh-floor spa features an outdoor pool surrounded by a sprawling, landscaped pool deck, a coed whirlpool with fireplace that enables it to be used most of the year, outdoor cooking area with tables and chairs, state-of-the-art exercise room, and shower rooms with sauna and whirlpools.

Walton on the Park is about half sold and occupied, Oliva said.

Roz Wattel moved to a three-bedroom condo at Walton on the Park in June. She said she takes advantage of the spa amenities daily, and especially enjoys using the outdoor whirlpool, then catching a snooze in the poolside chairs. She anticipates using the indoor sauna and whirlpool when colder weather arrives.

"I think they surpassed my expectations with what they've done," Wattel said. "You still hear the world up there, but it's so peaceful and quiet. It exudes peace and calm."

At Museum Park, a new condo community from the same developer, on the edge of Grant Park near the Field Museum, the spa treatment goes a bit further, said Oliva. For instance, the 1211 S. Prairie Ave. building contains indoor and outdoor pools, whirlpool, steam rooms and saunas, a huge clubhouse and an enormous exercise facility.

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