The real estate arm of the Tribune Media Company won approval to build a 30 acre campus with up to 9 million square feet of homes, stores and offices in River West on the site of its Freedom Center printing plant according to The Real Deal.
The Chicago Plan Commission voted to rezone the site around 777 West Chicago Avenue for "Downtown mixed-use, which allows the builder free reign to build homes, parks, stores, hotels and offices all along the west bank of the Chicago River between Grand and Chicago Avenues.
This area makes up the extent of the Tribune's proposed $2.5 billion "River District" mega-development which the city submitted last year as a challenger for Amazon's second North American headquarters. Riverside Investment & Development will be partnering with the Tribune to extend the project on seven acres north of Chicago Avenue. That plan was approved separately earlier this year.
The plan that was approved a few days ago includes 14 buildings up to 650 feet tall dispersed across the property and buffeted by green space. Details of each building have not yet been finalized. A press release last year had envisioned up to 5,900 residential units and 19,000 permanent jobs on the site by the time the development would be entirely finished.
A publicly accessible riverwalk promenade along the 3,200 foot waterfront edge was also promised by the developer.
The first phase of the plan calls for four towers combining 1,500 apartments between Grand and Erie Street, at the south end of the site. Construction is expected to begin in early 2020 with the hope of accepting the first tenants by the end of 2021.
Last year, the city created "affordability pilot zones" that would include 20 percent of the apartments to be rented below market rate. The developer will also take advantage of the city's downtown density bonus program to build with a high floor-area ratio than would be allowed under the site's zoning. In return, it will cost Tribune Media about $13 million which will go into the city's fund for business improvement grants on the city's South and West Sides.
The site sits across the river from Groupon's 16.5 million-square-foot headquarters at 600 West Chicago Avenue, which Sterling Bay bought for $510 million earlier this year.
The city's North Branch Corridor has become very popular for developers since the city adopted a huge rezoning last year to encourage construction of homes and offices on the traditionally industrial-dominated riverfront.
According to the Chicago Sun Times, Alderman Walter Burnett said he's very pleased that the city's affordable housing requirements will be satisfied by building units on site.
"One of the main reasons why I supported lifting the PMD in this industrial area was to get affordable housing on it. Other than that, it could have stayed industrial for the rest of its life as far as I'm concerned."
Alderman | Walter Burnett
He's also pleased that the Chicago Department of Transportation pushed hard for a host of transportation improvements to handle the increased density that may someday include a light rail line connected North Side neighborhoods to downtown commuter stations.
Posted by Judy Lamelza