Massive development Planned Along Chicago River's North Branch

Chicago Tribune | September 07, 2017

By Ryan Ori

310-unit apartment tower and more than 1.2 million square feet of office space are part of a four-building redevelopment planned along the Chicago River near Chicago Avenue.

Broadcast company Tribune Media and its partner on the project, Riverside Investment & Development, on Wednesday unveiled detailed plans for the 7-acre site at Chicago Avenue and Halsted Street, which has been in the works since the development venture was formed in 2015.

The zoning application filed with the city is the first public look at one of the most highly anticipated real estate developments within the North Branch Industrial Corridor, a 760-acre stretch along and near the river, where the city recently made large-scale zoning changes.

New zoning is expected to unleash a wave of developments in the area long dominated by manufacturing, including Sterling Bay's yet-to-be-revealed plans for the former A. Finkl & Sons steel plant and nearby properties.

Riverside's development is across the river from 600 West Chicago, a sprawling office building whose tenants include Groupon's headquarters. The site is near several densely populated areas, including River North, Fulton Market, Lincoln Park and Bucktown.

"Ultimately, this is going to fill in rapidly," said John O'Donnell, Riverside's CEO. "If you just look at a density map, this is the hole in the doughnut."

Riverside plans to demolish the vacant industrial building on the site, formerly used as a Chicago Tribune distribution facility, as soon as next year, O'Donnell said. The development will not affect operations of the nearby Freedom Center, where the Chicago Tribune and other newspapers are printed.

Riverside's plan includes more than 1.5 million square feet of space combined.

The tallest structure, a 610-foot apartment tower, would have 310 units, according to plans filed with the city. Three shorter buildings would have more than 1.2 million square feet of offices. The plan includes 540 parking spaces and another 50 spots for bikes.

Construction would likely kick off with the signing of an office lease of at least 100,000 square feet, O'Donnell said. The initial phase is expected to include the first office building, with about 450,000 square feet, and the apartment tower. The pace of future office construction is tied to additional pre-leasing by office tenants, O'Donnell said.

"We're after tech-type tenants, companies that are interested in a millennial-age workforce," O'Donnell said. "This site is central to the emerging neighborhoods."

Roads are along the west and south sides of the site, with the river on the north and east edges. The site includes more than 1,000 feet of river access, O'Donnell said.

Architect Goettsch Partners' design conceives structures accessible from street level. Renderings show stairs and walkways descending toward open, publicly accessible space and a riverwalk.

About 4.5 acres of the site will be open space, O'Donnell said.

Riverside's zoning application with the city was first reported by Curbed Chicago.

The site at Chicago and Halsted is among several throughout the country that Tribune Media has sold or formed joint ventures to redevelop, as it cashes in on the value of its real estate. The broadcast company kept control of the real estate portfolio when it spun off its publishing division in 2014 and renamed itself Tribune Media. Newspapers including the Chicago Tribune became the broadcast company's tenants.

Last year, Tribune Media sold Tribune Tower on Michigan Avenue to Los Angeles-based CIM Group and Chicago's Golub & Co., which plan to redevelop the landmark building.

Riverside's other projects include a recently completed 53-story office tower along the river downtown, and a planned 51-story office tower on Wacker Drive anchored by Bank of America. In its largest project, Riverside is leading a more than $1 billion redevelopment of Union Station.