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Developer Forgoes High-Rise for Lucrative Low-Rise Retail in River North

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A two-story structure is headed to 615 N. Wabash despite the site's dense zoning allowances

While the growing forest of construction cranes in River North is evidence of the neighborhood’s high-rise apartment boom, real estate investors are seeing lucrative opportunities in new retail as well. Case in point is a relatively modest project from developer Newcastle Limited now under construction at 615 N. Wabash.

Purchased by the Chicago-based firm in 2014 for $5.2 million, the property was cleared of a four-story 1874 office building the following year as it was marketed exclusively as a two-story retail space. Though the new project’s short stature is somewhat surprising given its heavy duty downtown base zoning of DX-12, the developer specifically targeted the hospitality niche by offering an opportunity for a build-to-suit development.

According to a low-resolution rendering appearing on Newcastle’s website, the upcoming building will be leased to Steak 48, a Phoenix-based steakhouse formerly known as Steak 44. The concept is owned by brothers Jeffrey and Michael Mastro who founded Mastro’s steakhouse before ultimately selling their stake in the brand in 2013. While a yet another steakhouse isn’t exactly what River North desperately needs, it's a proven concept that will more than likely be a commercial success for all parties involved.