North Union Looks Like a Big Project in a Modest Space

The plans for the new North Union project have been laid out for everyone to see.  It will cover five city blocks just west of the Moody Bible Institute in Chicago’s Near North neighborhood.  The land was formerly owned by the Institute, but was recently sold  so that the Moodys can focus their efforts on things other banking real estate.

Diagram of North Union (Via JDL Development)
Diagram of North Union (Via JDL Development)

The developer on this one is JDL.  You may know it from such projects as No. 9 Walton, One Chicago, and a whole bunch of things that went up on Wells Street recently.

North Union sits in kind of an awkward area.  It’s like the childless early 30’s of real estate:  Caught between being the cool kids in River North, the old establishment of the Gold Coast, the suits-and-ties of The Loop, and the stroller set on Michigan Avenue.

It’s still early days, but right now this project envisions 43 buildings, from townhouses to a 55-story skyscraper next to Walter Payton High School.  Interestingly, this isn’t a fully mixed-use project.  While most of the big developments in downtown Chicago recently have included offices and hotels, this is strictly a residential affair, plus the mandatory ground floor retail where required.

Diagram of North Union (Via JDL Development)
Diagram of North Union (Via JDL Development)

2021

Phase One starts modestly, on the block bounded by West Locust, North Wells, West Chestnut, and North Franklin Streets.  It includes three buildings:

  • 871 North Franklin Street: The 1922 Neely building  to be converted into 23 homes
  • 232 West Chestnut Street at five stories with 35 homes
  • 878 North Wells Street at 21 stories with 389 new homes

The trio would be clustered in a horseshoe around a 20,000 square-foot park opening onto Locust.

2023

Phase Two is shorter, but more dense than Phase One.  It’s the block bounded by West Walton, North Wells, West Locust, and North Franklin Streets. 

  • 213 West Walton Street: four-story house with one home
  • 215 West Walton Street: four-story house with one home
  • 217 West Walton Street: four-story house with one home
  • 216 West Locust Street: two story Moody Bible Institute athletic facility
  • 221 West Walton Street: The 1892 Fire Patrol Station #2, to be renovated into a two-story home.
  • 909 North Franklin Street: 12 stories with 100 homes
  • 920 North Wells Street: 15 stories with 186 homes

2025

Phase Three is both big and small.  On the small end is four banks of four-story townhouses at 235 West Oak Street, for a total of 24 homes.  On the tall end is 205 West Oak, a 42-story building with 340 new homes.

2027

Phase Four is another bank of six townhouses, lining another 20,000 square-foot park.  Behind that, a 30-story tower at 312 West Walton Street, sporting 340 new homes.

2029

Phase Five has the fewest buildings, but is the most ambitious.  A pair of towers at 300 and 310 West Oak Street connected by a parking podium.  300 is 55 stories with 633 homes, and 310 is 47 stories with 508 homes.  There’s also separate dog parks for large and small critters, and an off-street cul-de-sac to keep the vehicles for those 1,411 new homes from clogging up traffic.  This part of North Union will be right next to Walton Payton High School, in that big grassy field that you’ve seen a million times while cruising north on the Brown Line, looking for the big “34” on the side of the school.

November 2020 rendering of North Union (Via JDL Development)
November 2020 rendering of North Union (Via JDL Development)

The North Union plan includes many hundreds of parking spaces for cars.  As much as we’d love to see this become one of the dozens of new car-free communities popping up across the country, even in places like (*gasp*) Phoenix, that doesn’t seem practical.  Yes, there’s bus service, but not readily at hand.  Trains are limited to the Red Line station at Division, which could be a 20 minute walk, depending on which part of the development from which you start.  And with CTA ridership down 60-85%, don’t expect a new bus line down Wells Street anytime soon.  Maybe when this is all done in 2030 that might happen.  But you’ll probably upgrade your goldfish several times first.

A few more tidbits:

  • Size: 2,849,999 square feet
  • Total residences: 2,588
  • Affordable residences: 236
  • Affordable housing payment: $21,000,000

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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