In the early 2000s, ex-power broker and current imprisoned felon Antoin "Tony" Rezko of Rezmar, a Chicago-based development firm, announced plans to fully redevelop the mostly vacant, 62-acre South Loop site that runs along the Chicago River north and south of Roosevelt. After various failures to launch the area known as Riverside Park, Rezmar sold the property in 2005 for $131 million to the Luxemborg-based General Mediterranean Holding (GMH), the site's current owner. And now, after a decade of dormancy, Chicago-based developer Related Midwest has announced plans to form a joint venture with GMH to develop the site, Crain's reports.
Rezko's original plans for the site involved around 4,600 residential units and about 670,000 square feet of retail space—and $140 million in tax-increment financing (TIF) to help pay for it. But Chicago denied the TIF request after Rezko was caught in a minority contracting scandal, which acted as a bit of foreshadowing to Rezko's connections with Blagojevich and various kickback mechanisms that have since landed Rezko over 10 years in prison. Riverside Park has since remained a general eyesore, even prompting Mayor Emanuel's administration to attempt to acquire the site in 2014.
Now that Related Midwest is in the mix, it is expected that activity will soon be started on the site, though this process, especially as it relates to financing and subsidies, may be complicated by GMH's own legal foibles. Nadhmi Auchi, leader of GMH, is an Iraqi-born British businessman—one of Britain's wealthiest—and was tied up in his own oil-related kickback scandals in 2003.
Based on the site's size and location, it is easily a decade out from realizing substantial change, but with civic pressure from Mayor Emanuel, and development pressure from other big projects in the South Loop—including the recently announced $1.5 billion Lend Lease/CMK River South mega-project right next door—hopes are that the site won't sit dormant for much longer.