South Loop Brownfield a Step Closer to New Life [u]

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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.

Updated May 12, 2015 @ 11:15pm with press release below:


Mayor Emanuel Announces Related Midwest To Jumpstart And Lead Development Of 62-Acre Riverfront Site At Clark And Roosevelt

Mixed-Use Development on Long-Dormant Site Will Improve Public Access to the River and City Connectivity While Creating Chicago’s Next Great Neighborhood and Thousands of Jobs

Mayor Rahm Emanuel and Alderman Daniel Solis (25th) today announced that Related Midwest is moving forward with development of the long-dormant 62-acre riverfront site at Clark and Roosevelt. The company has acquired a stake in the site and will serve as its master developer, jumpstarting its transformation and creating a vibrant neighborhood development and thousands of jobs.

“This will be one of the largest development projects in Chicago’s history, and I look forward to working with our private partners to transform this site and create economic opportunities for residents in every part of Chicago,” Mayor Emanuel said. “My administration will continue to use every tool at our disposal to drive private investment into sites like this, whether it’s the old Post Office or the Michael Reese property. “

As master developer, Related Midwest will work with the city to create a vibrant neighborhood and unparalleled public riverfront space through a multi-phased, mixed-use master planned development that will include world-class residential, retail and office space. In the coming months Related Midwest will formally start the planning process for the multi-phase, mixed-use Planned Development, which will ultimately require city council approval.

“As Chicagoans, we are not in the habit of making small plans and that is certainly the case with this one-of-a-kind site,” Curt Bailey, president of Related Midwest said. “Mayor Emanuel and Alderman Solis have long championed the creation of a vibrant mixed-use neighborhood for this site. We are thrilled to create a much-needed connection between the Loop and Chinatown and transform what was once a roadblock into a diverse community that will bring thousands of jobs and opportunity to the area.”

“This development will transform the area and I look forward to continuing to work with Related and the team as it moves forward,” Alderman Daniel Solis (25th) said. “This site has been a priority of mine for years and I applaud Related for making it their priority and working to make its development a reality.”

Today’s announcement follows action the city took in 2014 when the Community Development Commission approved Mayor Emanuel’s request for authority to acquire the site. The city was prepared to move forward with taking control of the site, but after Related Midwest expressed interest in joining the team, postponed the posting.

Located at the southwest corner of Clark Street and Roosevelt Road and extending a half-mile south along the Chicago River to 16th Street, the property is the largest undeveloped parcel of land in downtown Chicago. The future development will improve public access to the riverfront and provide a new beautiful open space and parkland for Chicago residents. These amenities will help improve city connectivity between neighborhoods and provide new walkable, transit-oriented options for the community.

Related Midwest is the Chicago office of Related Companies which has a 40-year track-record of spearheading market-defining projects across the globe and is currently developing Hudson Yards, a 28-acre, 17 million square foot neighborhood on Manhattan’s West Side. Related Midwest has recently developed and brought to market more than $2 billion in residential, mixed-use and affordable housing communities in Chicago. Last month, the firm broke ground on two high-rise residential projects: One Bennett Park, at 451 E. Grand Ave., in the Streeterville neighborhood; and a 30-story rental tower at 1035 W. Van Buren St., in the West Loop; and is planning a development at 400 N. Lake Shore Drive, Chicago’s last lakefront site on North Lake Shore Drive. Related Midwest has also been responsible for the preservation of thousands of units of affordable housing in the city of Chicago.

Location: 1331 South Lumber Street, South Loop

Author: Editor

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

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