Published on Dec. 3, 2020 by Steven Vance
Updated on Jan. 16, 2021
Correction 12/8/20: The first modular house in Chicago was the “C3” in West Town designed by Square Root Architecture and built in a factory in Indiana. It was permitted and assembled in 2010. The Kinexx modular house is the first built in Chicagoland.
On Tuesday I visited Chicago’s first modular house at 4856 S Ada St in Back of the Yards for the second time this year. I first visited on August 24, when the eight modules were assembled in a day. This time was to get a tour of the finished house. Josh Braun and Paul Tebben are the founders of Kinexx Modular Construction, and co-developed the property with The Resurrection Project, an affordable housing developer.
Josh and Paul opened the tour by describing how they believe the modular house doesn’t look like a modular house. I agree — it’s next to impossible to see clues that the house was built from eight pieces assembled at an offsite warehouse near the southwest border of Chicago.
To recap, the house cost about $240,000 to construct. Most of the house was built offsite, including certain finishes like the floors and windows, while additional finishes like the doors and stair steps were finished onsite. It’s a two-story house with three bedrooms, 1.5 bathrooms, a living room, and a combined kitchen and dining room. I appreciated the common area storage closet on each floor and there’s additional storage in the attic.
Making it look that way was important for two reasons, they said: To avoid stigmas and perceptions associated with manufactured housing (which isn’t allowed in Chicago except for the homes at Harbor Point Estates). Secondly, it was stressed by city officials.
City of Chicago officials in the buildings and housing department appear to be fully supportive of the project. Last month, Josh and Paul gave a tour to several housing department staff. Housing Commissioner Marisa Novara gave me the following statement: “Solving the City’s affordable housing gap requires public and private partners to develop innovative solutions that increase housing choice for our residents. The Kinexx Modular Homes, which are built new in less than half the time of traditional new home construction, are one of the innovative solutions we are optimistic will help change the landscape for affordable homeownership across Chicago. I want to thank Kinexx for its commitment to Chicago and its residents and we look forward to this next stage of modular housing in Chicago.”
Chase bank is also supportive of the project, Crain’s reported today. The bank is giving $7.2 million to The Resurrection Project and its partners, which is expected “to finance construction of about 100 modular homes and renovation of about 50 existing structures”. This doesn’t necessarily mean that Kinexx is receiving 100 orders; other builders could potentially be involved.
Chase has a lot to make up: “For every dollar JPMorgan Chase lent to residents of white neighborhoods, 2.4 cents went to people in majority-Black communities, WBEZ found.”, according to the Chicago Tribune, which also reported on Chase’s grant.
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The house will eventually be sold, but it’s staying unoccupied for now to continue giving tours to people and organizations interested in working with Kinexx or buying their modular houses. When it comes time, TRP will be in charge of selling the house to the ultimate household, as Kinexx doesn’t sell directly to homebuyers.
Josh and Paul are working on the second version, which is planned to go on two sites, one next door on Ada St and one in North Lawndale. Version 2.0 will incorporate some design changes, including widening the house by two feet and thus expanding the floor area by about 200 s.f. That change was enabled by what they learned about creating the module frames and the specific transportation constraints. The new house designs will be built of 10 modules in a 5x1 pattern on each floor, where the current design has eight modules in a 2x2 pattern on each floor.
Construction on those version 2.0 houses — again, in the warehouse — will start the first week of January 2021. We’ll tell you where they’re going when the houses are permitted. In the meantime, check out the house on video.
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