By Christina B. Farnsworth. The 1.87-acre site of a defunct railroad switching yard in the heart of a Chicago neighborhood known as Bucktown is now home to urban professionals seeking hip city living. Willow Court is 56 contemporary townhomes ranging from 1,650 to 2,760 square feet that quickly sold for $300,000 to $400,000.

Though gone, the railroad figured into the site challenges: "An infrequently used rail line abutted the site creating an 18-foot rise from one end of the site to the other," says architect David Haymes, a double award winner this year.

The staggered townhouses parallel the street and wrap around landscaped entry courts, a Chicago tradition. In keeping with its boxcar antecedents, some of the architectural elements include large, black steel cantilevered box bays, which give the illusion of a porch inside the buildings. The basic building block is brick, another Chicago tradition. Three-hour firewalls made of pre-cast tilt-in-place concrete wall panels manufactured off site, reduced project costs and construction time.

Photo: George Pappageorge

Each home has a garage on the first level accessible from an alley. The Unit A plan features a media room on the first floor. Adjacent to the media room is the main front door accessible from a pedestrian court. A flight of stairs leads upstairs to living room, dining room, kitchen, and powder room on the second floor. The third floor has three bedrooms and two bathrooms. Each of the 56 units boasts a rooftop penthouse and terrace on what is essentially a fourth level with spectacular views of the city. Category: Townhomes, over 2,000 square feet; Entrant/Architect: Pappageorge/Haymes, Chicago; Builder: Wooten Construction, Chicago; Developer: Smithfield Properties, Chicago