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Massive 1,500-Unit Atrium Village Redevelopment Project Almost Ready to Dig In

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The redevelopment of Atrium Village will soon be underway, as groundbreaking on the major project is expected to take place next month. The existing site is a development layout typical of urban renewal schemes from the mid-20th century as far design is concerned: an inward focused community with limited interaction at the sidewalk while the structures sat in a "towers in the park" environment. The buildings consist of a nine-story mid-rise as well as eight three-story low-rise buildings placed into the interior of the block with surface parking lots, suburban styled empty green spaces and courtyards placed between them. One additional building that featured a limited amount of retail space was located along Division Street with a fortress-like facade that harkens back to when the neighborhood was a far less desirable area, located just a block away from the eastern fringe of the former Cabrini-Green public housing complex and its infamous legacy.

The original Atrium Village concept has a rather interesting story behind it, as it was created by a collation of four local churches who believed that Chicagoans of different incomes and ethnicities could live together. The project did ultimately accomplish that goal, lasting through the tough years which saw Cabrini Green as a dreaded no-go zone and the more recent times where the Near North Side now has some of the city's hottest real estate. The community has thrived over time and still provides an oasis of affordable housing within the highly sought after and increasingly pricey neighborhood. However, the design was a product of its time and a redevelopment plan has come forward to reintegrate the large super-block back into the greater neighborhood and in the process, create even more affordable housing than what exists now while adding a significant density boost and more retail to the transit-oriented location.

The site sits just one block west of the new LaSalle Street entrance to the Red Line's Clark and Division Station and sits adjacent to the elevated tracks of the Brown and Purple Line, where a station could be re-established at Division Street. An elevated station at Division did in fact exist and was in service from May of 1900 to August 1949 and the redevelopment's design will provide a enough space for such a station to be rebuilt, providing a major transit enhancement to the entire area.

The development plan was approved by the Chicago Plan Commission in July 2012 and calls for five phases of construction staged in a manner which will allow the existing residents to remain on site while offering everyone an opportunity to move into the new phases before any residential demolitions occur. Fully built out, the development will have 1,500 residential units, 47,000 square feet of retail (including a grocery store), a new public park spanning two acres and four high-rise towers stretching up to 44 stories, creating a new visual focal point at the northwest end of the downtown skyline. There are 225 units of affordable housing on site currently which will increase to approximately 300 units when the new mixed-income community is fully built out.

While the concept plan was approved three years ago, nothing has commenced as of yet. The property was sold to Canadian developer Onni Group in 2014, who is now gearing up for phase one to begin at the southwest corner of Wells and Division Streets. The first new high-rise is designed by Hartshorne Plunkard Architecture (HPA) and has been modified from the original concept plan, rising to 32 stories and will include 405 residential units, ranging from studios to three-bedroom units designed to a condo quality, and 25,000 square feet of retail at the ground level. Given the affordable housing emphasis and TOD location, there is a surprisingly high number of parking spots with 342 spaces for residential use and 74 additional spaces specifically for the retail. However, the visual impact of the parking will be minimized as the tower design includes a seven-story podium wrapped in occupied living space, hiding the parking levels from street view. The design will internalize all loading and parking access, allowing for an uninterrupted streetscape enhancing pedestrian friendliness along both Wells and Division. The tower will be topped with a green roof, will be designed to achieve LEED Silver designation and will have on-site car sharing.

Stay tuned as this multi-phase project begins to get underway and adds to the ongoing post-recession apartment boom continuing to expand the skyline.

Shawn Ursini

·Atrium Village Redevelopment: Phase 1 [Connect Near North]
·Atrium Village [FitzGerald Associates]
·1,500-Unit Atrium Village Development to Finally Begin [DNAinfo]
·Division Street Station [Chicago-L.org]
·Atrium Village [Official Website]

Atrium Village

W. Division St. and N. Wells St., Chicago, IL