Thursday, May 12, 2016

South Loop Brownfield a Step Closer to New Life

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One of the few remaining great tracts of disused land near downtown Chicago is another baby step towards being put to productive use again. Almost exactly one year after we told you that Related Midwest was in talks to develop the South Loop brownfield bordered by West Roosevelt Road, South Clark Street, West 16th Street, and the Chicago River, it has inked a deal with the city to do just that.

The patch of ground was a former rail yard, but is better known in recent years for its ties to Tony Rezko, the political fundraiser and Democratic operative who was sentenced to a dime in federal prison for fraud, money laundering, attempted extortion, and trying to corrupt public officials.  The property is currently owed by Luxembourg-based General Mediterranean Holding.

On May 14 of last year we told you that G.M.H. and Related Midwest were in talks to do a big master-planned community at this location.  Now Crain’s Chicago Business quotes both Related Midwest President Curt Bailey and Mayor Rahm Emanuel as saying the project is a go.

We’ve been telling you for years about that the city is anxious to redevelop this property, putting tax dollars in the kitty and putting political intrigue behind.  CDOT has even put together plans to extend Wells Street southward through this property, reconnecting Chinatown with downtown.

So far, Related and its partner are vague about the details, but it is believed this will be a fully mixed-use development with both offices and thousands and thousands of residences as well. It’s expected to talk a decade and a half to complete, once plans are drawn up.

Fifteen years would be a pretty quick turnaround for this 62-acre parcel.  Magellan Development’s Lakeshore East in The Loop is a mere 28 acres, and in a better location, and it’s still not done 47 years after it was first proposed, and 13 years after construction began in earnest.

But Related Midwest is not Magellan.  Its parent company has a lot of experience with this sort of massive project, and is currently working on similar ones on the East Coast and in Europe.  Its $20 billion Hudson Yards development in Manhattan has become a favorite child in retail, architecture, and urban planning circles.  It also recently put together a 180-acre redevelopment deal in London.

The Chicago property is the latest, but not last, brownfield to be transformed near downtown.  The previously mentioned Lakeshore East went from rail yard to golf course to residential skyscraper forest in a little over a decade.  It still has about five buildings left to built.

Just north of Related Midwest’s riverside wonderland, ground was recently broken on Riverline — a CMK and Lend-Lease community designed by Perkins+Will.  Farther north, the redevelopment of what once was Cabrini Green has been piecemeal, but progressing.  If you keep going, there’s the whole PMD1 situation, where most of the heavy industry has moved out and the community is deciding what to do with the space adjacent to Goose Island.  And of course, there’s the former Michael Reese Hospital site down at 29th street.

Related’s paperwork progress on the parcel north of Chinatown is encouraging, and should do wonders for helping the city embrace the Chicago River as a friend beloved asset instead of treating it like a rented mule, as was done in previous centuries.  But there is still work to be done stitching the city’s downtown core back together after being pockmarked for decades by neglect.


from Chicago Architecture

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