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Plan would bring high-rise housing to Goose Island

Onni Group’s proposal is called a “shot in the arm” with up to 2,650 homes at a longtime industrial district.

A rendering of the full buildout proposed on Goose Island with the project’s first phase in the foreground.
A rendering of the full buildout proposed on Goose Island with the project’s first phase in the foreground.
Onni Group

The southern end of Goose Island, long within an industrial zone, would get up to 2,650 residences grouped mostly in four high-rises under plans shown to community groups.

The proposal by Onni Group calls for a project that would take years to realize, but construction on its first phase could start next year. It would mark the first incursion of housing on Goose Island since city officials relaxed the manufacturing-only zoning rules along the Chicago River’s North Branch in 2017.

Onni owns 8 acres on the 900 block of North Halsted Street, property used as a maintenance center for Greyhound buses. It would be replaced with buildings ranging from 28 to 56 stories, with space set aside for a marketplace and public access to the waterfront. A fifth building planned in a later phase would contain a hotel and offices.

A rendering of a terrace planned on Goose Island  with a pedestrian bridge over the canal.
A rendering of a terrace planned on Goose Island with a pedestrian bridge over the canal.
Onni Group

“We believe that residential is going to be much quicker to come back post-pandemic” than commercial uses, said Brian Brodeur, Onni’s vice president of development. He spoke Thursday night during an online meeting neighborhood groups organized for the first public airing of what the developer calls Halsted Point.

His company is based in Vancouver, British Columbia, but has been active in Chicago. Brodeur noted that Onni is a long-term owner of real estate, holding onto developments long after they are built.

The meeting was the start of a process for evaluating Onni’s zoning request, expected soon. Reaction from neighbors and city agencies could force changes, although comments posted during the online session were generally positive.

Ald. Walter Burnett Jr. (27th) said the proposal would revitalize an area he regarded as a “ghost town” when he was a teenager. The site is within his ward.

Brodeur said the housing is planned as rentals, with 20% reserved as affordable under a city ordinance. At full buildout, he said the project would generate $28 million from Onni to city funds for neighborhood improvements, including renovations of industrial corridors.

The site is immediately north of the Chicago Tribune’s Freedom Center printing plant, itself a candidate for a sizable development. Past proposals have called for a commercial project, however, and nothing has moved forward. The Tribune has a long-term lease on the property, where the Chicago Sun-Times also is printed.

On Goose Island, Onni is working with Hartshorne Plunkard Architects; other firms may get involved later.

The first phase calls for a 46-story building on Halsted that also would contain ground-floor retail space, perhaps for a grocery store. The property would eventually have 1,400 parking spaces, mostly below grade,

Burnett, reached after the meeting, said the project was well-designed and, separated from other areas by the river and the North Branch Canal, is “one of the easier” zoning applications his development-heavy ward will see.

“This will provide a lot of nice amenities for the city,” he said. “It’s a shot in the arm.”

Onni bought the Greyhound property in 2019 for $38 million. Brodeur said Greyhound’s lease at the site expires in January 2022.

The proposal is similar in scale to a plan called North Union a few blocks east, in which JDL Development wants to build 2,656 units on parcels the Moody Bible Institute is giving up. To the north of Goose Island is the Lincoln Yards site, earmarked for long-term commercial and residential growth.

Meeting organizers included Neighbors of River West, Near North Unity Program and the River North Residents Association.

A view from the south of the proposed Halsted Point project.
Onni Group