River North high-rise warns tenants: quit smoking or leave

Posted: 1/5/2011

Tenants at Kingsbury Plaza, an apartment building in River North, had a New Year's resolution made for them by management firm The Habitat Co. this year: Quit smoking. Or move.

Kingsbury on Jan. 1 began a yearlong transition to becoming a smoke-free building. If successful, Habitat, which manages more than 3,300 market-rate apartments in eight Chicago buildings, may apply it to other properties, said Gary Lundemo, Kingsbury's property supervisor.

Several high-rise apartments that opened in downtown Chicago during the past two years have marketed themselves as smoke-free residences catering to affluent, white-collar professionals. Few existing buildings have adopted a smoke-free stance, but the demand for apartments this year is expected to lead to higher rents and, perhaps, more experimentation with building policies.

One-third of people would be willing to pay more to live in a smoke-free building, according to a survey completed in November by the Chicago Tobacco Prevention Project.

"That's what's getting the landlords," said Joel Africk, president and CEO of the Respiratory Health Association of Metropolitan Chicago.

Kingsbury opened three years ago. Today, about 15 percent of its tenants are smokers. Last fall, a survey at the 420-unit building, which is 96 percent occupied, showed a concern about second-hand smoke.

Penalties at Kingsbury will include a $350 fine for a first violation and eviction for the second violation.

Nevertheless, Kim Kilibarda, director of resident relations at Regents Park in Chicago's Hyde Park neighborhood, wonders how successfully a no- smoking policy can be enforced behind a resident's front door.

"If someone's smoking, you can smell it," she said, "But if you knock, all they're going to do is flush it."

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