Marlowe, the first voice-activated apartments open in River North

Lennar Chicago

Marlowe, Chicago’s first voice-activated apartments are now open for lease in River North . Marlowe features Lennar’s Wi-Fi CERTIFIED™ Home Design, which allows its residents to control connected devices by simply using their voice. Learn more about these new voice-activated apartments in this Chicago Business article by Dennis Rodkin.


Residents can control the lights, shades, temperature and music in their apartments using only their voice at Marlowe, a new 15-story luxury building on Huron Street. It’s in the standard technology package for all units, not an upgrade.


Say hello to the first apartments in Chicago where voice-activated lights, window shades, thermostat and music are all standard equipment.

Or, more to the point, say “Hello, Alexa,” and Amazon’s voice-activated electronic assistant will set all that equipment exactly the way you want it.

At Marlowe, a 167-unit rental building that opened in stages in June and July, the technology package that comes in every apartment also includes a commercial-grade Wi-Fi router that promises no dead spots.

When they move into the glassy 15-story building on Huron Street, renters get time with an Amazon staffer who sets it all up to their specifications. That includes creating three custom-designed “scenes,” or pre-set combinations of lights, shades and temperature the residents want to have when, for example, they arrive home from work in the evening or when they’re watching movies.

Then, at the end of a workday, the renter can walk into the apartment, say “Alexa, I’m home,” and watch the surroundings automatically adjust. Later, say “Alexa, it’s movie time,” and it all will adjust again.

“You can fully activate your apartment without touching anything,” said Peter Chmielewski, senior vice president of development for Lennar Multifamily Communities, the wing of Miami-based homebuilder Lennar Corporation that developed Marlowe.

In 2017, Lennar, one of the nation’s largest home-building firms, rolled out a similar voice-activated package in some of its single-family home developments. Marlowe is Lennar’s first multi-family building to offer it.

“We’re a beneficiary of what the single-family (side) was doing,” Chmielewski said, “but we spent a lot of time working out the details for” an apartment building. One difference: Lennar’s package for single-family homes includes a new-technology doorbell and video monitoring of who’s at the door, but because Marlowe has a staffed front desk, those components aren’t needed.

The detail work included putting a plastic door, instead of a more common metal one, over the compartment where the guts of an apartment’s technology are kept. “It reduces interference with the signals,” Chmielewski said.

The lights, temperature, window shades and music can also be controlled via an app and by wall switches. Renters can turn off any of the components they don’t want to use. Cable and Internet aren’t included in the package, but after the provider does its installation, an Amazon staffer comes in to make it all harmonize, Chmielewski said.

The voice-activation package appears to be the first in Chicago offered at no additional cost to the tenant as a standard amenity in a rental building. In February, the real estate firm Golub announced a plan to make an Alexa-based package available at units in its Streeterville building called Moment, though the firm said tenants who opt into the package would pay slightly higher rent than those who don’t.

At Marlowe, the voice-activated equipment and high-quality Wi-Fi is included in the monthly rent, which starts at about $2,000 for a 430-square-foot studio and tops out at about $4,690 for a 1,200-square-foot two-bedroom. The Marlowe is part of the wave of high-priced, super-amenitied rentals that developers have been building by the thousands in downtown neighborhoods over the past several years.

“When we were designing this building, we knew there were hundreds of units coming within a quarter-mile,” Chmielewski said. “We knew we were going to need to stand out.”

Another convenient modern twist on apartment living is in the package-delivery area on the first floor. Renters who come to pick up a package will hold up their phone to a monitor, and one of a few dozen small doors on the wall will open to reveal their package stored inside.

There’s more technological sophistication on the 15-floor amenity floor, such as internet-equipped screens on the treadmills and Peloton exercise bikes. Every renter gets a membership.

Marlowe, at 169 E. Huron, was designed by Antunovich Associates, a prolific Chicago architecture firm, and the apartment interiors are by Elness Swenson Graham Architects in Minneapolis. The apartments have nine-foot ceilings of concrete and walls of windows. Many units have balconies, and single parking spaces in the building rent for an additional $250 a month.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Your browser is out of date and may not display all features of this and other websites

Learn how to update your browser here.