Edgeville Buzz

FLATS Chicago’s Jay Michael, Doing Big Things in the Hood


JayMichaelIf you walk around Edgewater and Uptown, you have probably seen the large ‘FLATS Chicago‘ signs on apartment buildings throughout our neighborhood. The company’s mascot is a cute and tiny stamped French bulldog named Louise, who is the human owner to Jay Michael, the Chief Creative Officer of the Flats. These properties are owned and managed by Jay Michael, and he is doing more than just managing rental. He is designing new styles of living, partnering with small businesses around the neighborhood, and working hand in hand with nonprofits to support the work they do. Jay is known for his appearance in Bravo’s “100 Days of Summer” reality show based in Chicago, but should be known for the creative and exciting ventures he has going on locally.

The Flats rental units and the buildings they reside in are unique when compared to other rental properties around the city. Each building has a featured artist or series of works displayed on the walls. There is free wi-fi, in-unit laundry and a pet-enthusiastic culture. Units range from single micro-style living to 3 bedroom duplexes with outside spaces. There is a strong sense of community among the people Flats2that work for the company, as well as residents living in the buildings. Community and living well is his shtick, and he is hustling every day to collaborate, create partnerships, and support other local and independent businesses, because he knows that is what drives our neighborhood. “The small businesses in the community located on the corners of every block in the neighborhood, is what makes our community,” he said. “These small businesses are our lifeblood.” Now Jay, alongside corporate sponsors and the city of Chicago, are putting their money where their mouth is.

Upcoming is the #FLATSProject, a small business and community accelerator project designed to give unique businesses and the people who devote their lives to them, a chance to hit the ground running with a large monetary contribution to their business. They are in search of entrepreneurs who have already poured their souls into their big idea, and are looking for an opportunity to make their business a part of a vibrant, diverse Chicago neighborhood. So far they have received a great deal of interest from people he calls “makers.” Stylists who have  antique barber shop items, people who design things like handbags and jewelry, among many other independent and creative types. There are no rules and limited restrictions on who can apply. Once the applications are in, the Flats executive management, city of Chicago sponsors, and business sponsors will pick the top contenders. From there, the community will get to decide the final winners through a social media voting frenzy. To apply or find out more, click here.

photo (1)Over the years Jay has collaborated with nonprofit organizations like Heartland Alliance and Thresholds, and is an active board member and supporter of Refugee One. His relationship with Refugee One began years ago since they began housing clients in one of their north-side buildings. He could see how great their work was and what they were able to do for their clients and how much it was bettering the community. “These organizations are the key players in our neighborhoods.” One of the Flats buildings features photos of clients from Refugee One, and they recently hosted a fundraiser for the organization that raised a great deal of money and awareness. 

He Flats3originally began investing in the properties because he felt as though the old buildings had great structure and space to work with, but lacked in design. He and his business partner (and early childhood best friend) were able to come in and gut the buildings and redesign the inside to make the spaces unique for city dwellers. When building and designing these spaces, he went to CB2 to collaborate. They build furniture that is scaled for small spaces and are cost effective. For their company it made sense to collaborate because it gives them the perfect space and design to offer renters. “They were all function without form. I thought there was a way to marry form and function and have a better design overall. We make the space mighty,” says Jay. He thrives on the idea of communities having a sense of design and people being able to live well. “Our spaces are the best in the market. Even the small studios have basic things. We have unique qualities because we use space differently.”

Originally from Skokie and a previous tenant of Old Town, Jay lives in one of the properties at 5411 Winthrop. He has lived and studied internationally over the years and continues to travel back and forth. He knows Chicago is an amazing city with vast space and he has many exciting projects, not just focused in real estate, coming down the pipeline in the future.

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