Residential, hotel towers eyed for South Loop

A developer is bringing the $350 million proposal to the Chicago Plan Commission despite the business slowdown resulting from the pandemic.

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A rendering shows the two buildings planned for Wabash Avenue near Ida B. Wells Drive. A Roosevelt University building in the foreground is not part of the development.

A rendering shows the two buildings planned for Wabash Avenue near Ida B. Wells Drive. A Roosevelt University building in the foreground is not part of the development.

BKV Group

Despite a pandemic that has chilled demand for speculative construction, a developer is pushing ahead with plans for a two-tower residential and hotel complex in the South Loop.

A partnership connected to Northfield-based Interforum Holdings has proposed the development at 525 S. Wabash Ave. Listed in a city report as a $350 million development, it is scheduled for review at a Chicago Plan Commission meeting Thursday.

Material prepared for the meeting shows the southernmost part of the property would get a 35-story residential building containing 777 units. A portion of the site with frontage on Ida B. Wells Drive would get a 23-story, 314-room hotel.

Parking and retail space, including a food store, would connect the buildings in a design by architectural firm BKV Group.

“It’s an aggressive proposal” in a pandemic, said Bonnie Sanchez-Carlson, president of the Near South Planning Board, a community group that has signed off on the design. She said the developer has considered the project for some time and revised it several times in consultations with Ald. Brendan Reilly (42nd).

The project would replace a parking garage and a surface parking lot. Sanchez-Carlson said her group’s only reservation is that the complex, which would include a grocery store, lacks sufficient parking for residents, shoppers and hotel use. It’s slated to have 151 spaces.

Reilly did not respond to messages Tuesday. When city officials advance something to the plan commission, it’s typically a sign of aldermanic assent. If the commission endorses the zoning change, it goes to the City Council.

Interforum has been involved in residential construction and condo conversions, mostly in the suburbs and the city’s North Side. Its co-founder, Igor Blumin, and the project’s zoning attorney, Michael Ezgur, could not be reached.

By reducing travel and business meetings, the pandemic has devastated hotel demand and forced some properties to close temporarily. Experts have said financing for new hotel projects here is unlikely until business gets back to normal. Others cite weakness in downtown demand for apartments amid COVID-19.

The developer said in its zoning application that it will set aside 78 apartments as affordable rentals under a city ordinance. The rent must be affordable to tenants earning up to 60% of the area’s median income. The income limit for a family of four is $54,600 a year.

The project would wrap around a four-story athletic center of Roosevelt University, which would not change.

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