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Related Midwest Unveils Plans for Massive Development on South Loop Site

Ambitious Project Would Add 13 Million SF Along Chicago River Over Two Decades
May 11, 2018

The 78 will create a new neighborhood along a half-mile stretch of Chicago River waterfront long derided as an eyesore. Credit: Related Midwest


After decades of dormancy, Related Midwest hopes to transform an undeveloped former railyard site into one of the largest developments in Chicago history.


Dubbed The 78 because it would be the Windy City's 78th neighborhood, the project would add 13 million square feet of office, entertainment, retail and residential development on 62 acres along a half-mile of Chicago riverfront linking the South Loop to Chinatown's Ping Tom Park.


Photo Credit: Related Midwest

Related Midwest, which has owned the property bounded by Roosevelt Road, Clark Street, 16th Street and the Chicago River since 2016, promised to transform the site into a "riverfront experience on par with the greatest urban waterfronts of the world -- all while featuring undeniable 'Chicago Soul.'"

The project has extra cachet because Related Midwest is an affiliate of New York City based Related Companies, which is building the 18-million-square-foot Hudson Yards mixed-use project in Manhattan.

The plans include multiple towers that scrape the sky at 950 feet and more than 11 acres of public space "integrating urban and natural elements," according to the developer. Midwest Related said the five-acre riverfront dining and entertainment plans include four wide buildings that take their cues from crowd-drawing waterfronts in other winter-oriented cities like Oslo, Norway.

If successful, the site along the Chicago River -- or what Related Midwest President Curt Bailey called, "our everything" -- would serve as a focal point of Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s vision of a two-waterfront city that draws on the inspiration and insight of architect Daniel Burnham’s "City in a Garden" plan, first etched out more than a century ago.

"We have all these pathways and sightlines leading to the river," Bailey said at the public unveiling Thursday night.

Discovery Partners Institute.
Photo Credit: Related Midwest

The site also includes plans for the Discovery Partners Institute (DPI), an enormous University of Illinois System research facility that the university said will eventually house as many as 100 faculty members and some 2,000 students. Gov. Bruce Rauner and the U of I System first unveiled the Illinois Innovation Network plans in October with the DPI as the first undertaking.

Related Midwest donated the land south of Roosevelt Road along the Chicago River for the institute.

Renderings of The 78, designed by Skidmore, Owing & Merrill, show bucolic parks with bikeways and pedestrian connections cutting through and surrounding them, with the Willis Tower and other Loop high-rises in the distance. Walkways and resting spots step down to a riverwalk promenade. Low-rise office and residential is planned to be closest to the river.

Related Midwest has revealed no financing plans for and was sketchy on some of the project details, such as how many residential units there might be or what type of entertainment venues they were envisioning. The developer has not estimated a total price tag for the project to be built in phases over 20 years, which still requires zoning approval.

Bailey said he will need at least one major office tenant to begin the first phase of construction and has reportedly talked with several unnamed potential tenants.

The site is among the five in Chicago that Amazon visited in March for its planned second headquarters pegged to total 8 million square feet.

The last proposal to redevelop the site was in 2002, and building considerable infrastructure must be built before much vertical construction begins. Related Midwest’s plans call for moving and enclosing the Metra rail line away from Clark Street to make it a "much more human, walkable, urban street." New streets and entry point are expected to be added at multiple levels with a new Red Line CTA station in the plans.

Jennifer Waters, Chicago Reporter  CoStar Group   
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