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River South Mega-Development Meets the Plan Commission

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The September meeting of the Chicago Plan Commission was held yesterday and at the end of the agenda was an unveiling of plans for the empty riverfront property south of River City to be developed by a joint venture of Chicago based CMK and Sydney, Australia based Lend Lease. Developer CMK Companies had purchased nearly all of the vacant property along the South Branch of the Chicago River between Harrison Street and Roosevelt Road last winter in three different transactions and proposed a mega-development for the site called River South. Chicago based architecture firm Perkins+Will was then hired to lead the site planning for the project to be constructed on both sides of the existing River City.

Original plans for the mixed-use River City complex by architect Bertrand Goldberg were much grander than what ended up getting built, including a visionary concept of three 72 story cylindrical towers. These towers, referred to as the "River City Triad" were to be similar in design to the famous towers at Marina City on the main branch of the river, except this version was 11 stories taller and was to include three intermediate skybridges linking the towers roughly every 18 floors. The River City building as it exists now, was only phase one of a serpentine like structure which was to extend southward towards Roosevelt Road and continue the twisting form along the riverfront. The Planned Development for it was passed in 1980, allowing for a total of 1500 units extending from Polk Street to Roosevelt Road, but as anyone cruising the river can see, the former railroad land to south of the first building has been empty since the initial phase opened in 1986.

CMK's plans for the south stretch of riverfront property includes three residential high-rises as well as 62 townhomes. Two of the towers will be located at the north end of the site, adjacent to the existing River City building. The two towers will then flank a dedicated right-of-way for the reestablishment of a bridge crossing the river at Taylor Street. The third high-rise would be placed alongside the Roosevelt Road viaduct. Between the taller buildings would stand clusters of townhouses arranged into nine stand-alone buildings with courtyard layouts which would open towards Wells Street. Additional townhomes would also be included into the bases of the high-rise towers to screen the parking levels from view. A total of 942 residential units is planned for the southern stretch of land, which CMK does not need a zoning change for. Since the original Planned Development concept included allowances for high-rise structures and 1054 units beyond the 446 in River City's first phase, this unveiling was only a courtesy presentation to the Plan Commission and no formal vote was taken.

CMK expects to move forward on the southern property first and then proceed to the empty 7.3 acres to the north of River City, where as many as 2700 units are planned.

Shawn Ursini

·Plan for 2,700 Units May Make River South a Reality [Curbed Chicago]
·Previous River South coverage [Curbed Chicago]
·Goldberg's River City [Bertrandgoldberg.org]