Developers unveil proposal for new neighborhood on South Loop site

SHARE Developers unveil proposal for new neighborhood on South Loop site

Rendering of proposed education hub and riverwalk. Supplied by marketing and communication for Related Midwest.

A cafe zone, an extended Chicago Riverwalk and a potential new CTA Red Line station were just some of the details developers of “The 78” unveiled Thursday evening at a community meeting about the overhaul of the 62-acre South Loop site.

The area — bounded by the River, Roosevelt Road, 16th and Clark streets — would be home to new residential and commercial buildings and at least one hotel, according to Related Midwest President Curt Bailey.

“We have been challenged . . . to do something great on this site,” Bailey said. “It is our idea to do a transformational project.”

Touted as a public-private partnership, developers envision the sprawling site becoming Chicago’s 78th neighborhood.

Last fall, plans for a $1.2 billion research and innovation hub on the site were announced by Gov. Bruce Rauner and Mayor Rahm Emanuel, with about 2,000 students expected to make use of the “world-class” facility every year.

Plans revealed Thursday included new office and restaurant spaces, with cafes, bike paths and playgrounds. Developers say 20 percent of the residences would be set aside for affordable housing, and that the project would create roughly 10,000 locally hired jobs.

Bailey said the first phase of the project would be an extension of Wells Street south, with construction beginning this summer. Construction on the other elements of the project are slated to start in 2019.

Phil Enquist, the lead designer and a partner at Skidmore, Owings & Merrill, called the project a “once-in-a-generation” opportunity that would feature several acres of green space — including a park that would outline the former curvature of the Chicago River before it was straightened nearly 100 years ago.

Bailey said there was no timetable in place yet for the entire development to be completed, but he said it would be “a long time to reach fruition.”

He also did not have specifics on how many buildings the project would include, or a breakdown of commercial and residential space.

Developers said they are “pursuing” the construction of a new Red Line station at 15th and Clark, which is already CTA-owned property.

Designers have performed initial engineering studies to see how a new CTA station would be constructed, since it would fall between the underground Roosevelt station and the elevated Cermak-Chinatown station.

The tracks where the proposed station would go are on an incline, but “We all think it’s technically feasible to get a station there,” Enquist said.

Chicago’s bid for Amazon’s HQ2 may present a challenge for developers, though.

The site — also known as “Rezkoville” for its former owner, Tony Rezko, a developer convicted in the Rod Blagojevich scandal — was among the city’s submissions to the internet retail giant earlier this year. Amazon has said it wants 8 million square feet for its second headquarters.

During a Q&A session with the several hundred people gathered at the Local 399 union hall, Bailey was asked what would happen if Amazon picked the site.

“We’ll see,” he said. “It’s a very opaque process.”

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