City planning agency focuses on 6 La Salle Street renewal projects

The plans under review respond to Mayor Lori Lightfoot’s push to add housing, including affordable units, to what has been an office ‘monoculture.’

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The landmark 135 S. La Salle St. could have its office floors turned into 430 residences at a cost of $258 million.

Tyler Pasciak LaRiviere/Sun-Times

City officials have narrowed the list of proposals that could get public subsidies for its proposed revitalization of La Salle Street, although projects under consideration still represent more than $1 billion in private investment and possibly more than 2,000 residential units.

The city’s Department of Planning and Development has emphasized residential as a way to bring life back to La Salle in the central Loop, once the heart of banking and financial markets in Chicago. The corridor has seen substantial upticks in office and retail vacancies. Officials hope to change what they’ve described as an office “monoculture.”

The “La Salle Street Reimagined” program demands that at least 30% of new housing in that area be classed as affordable under city ordinance. Developers have chafed at the requirement but, with tax-increment financing and other city money as a lure, the program drew their attention nonetheless.

Six development teams now have projects the department is evaluating. That’s down from nine responses that met a late-December deadline.

Cindy Roubik, deputy planning commissioner, said the agency hopes to designate up to three proposals for city help by the end of March. Developers not chosen for city financing could still proceed with their plans or abandon them.

Roubik said three initial responses were eliminated. One was withdrawn by the developer, one was outside the La Salle Central TIF district and one application was incomplete, she said.

She said the developers’ responses show that the city’s 30% affordability requirement is attainable. “This was an invitation to apply. No one is being forced to do this,” she said. “We’re very pleased with the level of interest.”

The city has posted online details of a public Zoom meeting set for 5 p.m. March 2 at which developers will discuss design and financing of their projects, including the TIF money they want.

Two of the active proposals involve the 105 W. Adams St. building, which is in foreclosure. Roubik said both respondents have reported conversations with a property representative.

TIF is money diverted from property taxes and is the biggest carrot the city can offer. The La Salle corridor’s TIF district is among the most cash-rich in the city, with an audited balance of $197 million reported at the end of 2021.

The city also can help developers get low-income housing tax credits and incentives for fixing up historically or architecturally important property. Most properties along and near La Salle and from Randolph to Van Buren streets are part of the National Register of Historic Places.

Here is a summary of the six proposals considered for the program, with details from the city:

30 N. La Salle — Golub & Co. and American General Life Insurance would build 432 housing units, 30% of them affordable, with green space and seating along the Washington and La Salle frontages. Cost: $186 million.

208 S. La Salle — Developer Michael Reschke’s Prime Group would build 280 units, 30% affordable, with a dog run, fitness center and tenant lounge. Cost: $130 million.

135 S. La Salle — AmTrust Realty joined with Riverside Investment & Development to propose turning its office floors into 430 residences, 30% of them affordable, with new lobbies, retail and event space. Cost: $258 million.

105 W. Adams — Maven Development Group has proposed 423 housing units, 30% affordable. Not included are the building’s Club Quarters Hotel and Elephant and Castle Pub. Cost: $167 million.

105 W. Adams — Blackwood Group and Celadon Partners propose 247 residences, 75% of them affordable, with a food market and small businesses. Cost: $192 million.

111 W. Monroe St. — Prime Group and Capri Interests propose 349 residences, 30% affordable, with a new hotel on lower floors and a rooftop pool and restaurant, plus underground parking. Cost: $180 million.

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