Empty Riverside Expanse Now Has a Name and Developers

A portion of the land to be developed into River South

A portion of the land to be developed into River South

Australian mega-developer Lend Lease has announced that it is moving forward with plans to turn an expanse of wasteland in Chicago’s South Loop into Chicago’s next master planned development.  And its name is River South.

Lend Lease has entered into a joint venture master development agreement for a major 13 acre urban regeneration project in Chicago’s River South neighborhood that will consist of residential apartments/condos, associated retail, commercial and community facilities. Lend Lease will partner with CMK Companies to be the master developer of the site and will have the opportunity to invest in all stages of this $1.5 billion development. The site, situated on the Chicago River and located on the edge of the city’s Financial District, is located in an emerging precinct that has easy access to the city and its surrounding amenities. The project will be developed over a 10-year period; however, initial concept design work has already begun and the company aims to file plans over the coming months. Construction of the first stage is forecast to commence in early 2016.

The Chicago note was part of the company’s three-part development announcement including 281 Fifth Avenue in New York, and Chippership Wharf in Boston.

“Over the past year we have made meaningful strides in building our development business. We have strengthened our leadership in key markets, formed strong strategic alliances and have begun to successfully secure a meaningful pipeline of development opportunities in the key gateway cities of New York, Boston, and Chicago,” said Denis Hickey, Lend Lease C.E.O.

The name “River South” may sound familiar.  That’s because in 1997 the city created a River South TIF District with the goal of rehabilitating the area south of Jackson Boulevard in The Loop all the way down to Archer Avenue in Chinatown.  Different portions of that very large area were designated for different types of development.  The space that Lend Lease is focusing on is part of Subareas 1, 3 and 4, which are described this way:

  • Subarea 1 encompasses the northern portion of the Project Area, and includes the blocks generally north of Polk Street.  This Subarea should be devoted primarily to non-residential uses, including office, commercial and hotel facilities, and should provide expansion space for the financial district and other Loop commercial districts located north of the Project Area.  Within the area south of Harrison Street, new non-residential, new residential development and conversion of existing, underutilized, non-residential buildings should be encouraged.  New buildings should be oriented to the major streets which pass through the area, including Congress, Harrison, Polk, Clark and Wells.
  • Subarea 3 includes the properties along the river, between Harrison Street and Roosevelt Road.  This Subarea should be devoted primarily to planned residential development.  Office and commercial development could also be appropriate.  New development within this Subarea should be oriented to the river corridor, and should enhance Wells Street as an important north-south connection through the Project Area.
  • Subarea 4 includes the properties along the north and south sides of Roosevelt Road.  This Subarea should be devoted to a mix of medium to high density residential uses and non-residential uses, including neighborhood-oriented shopping and services.

What shape the Lend Lease/CMK project will take remains to be seen.  And once it’s seen it will likely change many many times between now and when it’s completed in 2026.  The Lakeshore East we see today is far from what was originally proposed to the city, and the architects drawings don’t match up with reality.  Similarly, this project will have to bend and twist with the whims and winds of the economy, market conditions, and the demands of both the banks and the customers.

But at least the downtown area won’t have a giant vacant lot on its doorstep anymore, and if the building of the nearby Target store is any indication, it’ll sure be interesting to see what kinds of things get pulled up from the muck in this chunk of land that not too long ago was the Chicago River.

Location: River South, South Loop

Author: Editor

Editor founded the Chicago Architecture Blog in 2003, after a long career in journalism. He can be reached at chicagoarchitectureinfo@gmail.com.

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