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South Loop riverfront mega-development to include U of I innovation center

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The facility will anchor a University of Illinois satellite campus

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A soon-to-be-announced plan to construct a new University of Illinois innovation center in Chicago has provided a first glimpse of the massive, multi-phase plan to redevelop a 62-acre vacant riverfront parcel north of Chinatown. Developer Related Midwest will reportedly donate an undisclosed portion of the site to the so-called Discovery Partners Institute.

The facility would achieve a long-held goal by Governor Bruce Rauner to better connect the research strength of U of I’s downstate campus with the economic engine of Chicago. The private-public partnership will also team up with local research titans Northwestern University and University of Chicago.

Related acquired the sprawling property in 2016 and has recently referred to its redevelopment as “the 78,” an indication that it will increase Chicago’s 77 recognized neighborhood areas by one. The site is also understood to be part of Chicago’s bid for Amazon’s highly coveted HQ2 second headquarters.

The massive parcel occupies the east bank of the Chicago River’s South Branch between Roosevelt Road and 18th Street.
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According to the Chicago Tribune, Gov. Rauner claims that the planned innovation center was not concieved with the Amazon specifically in mind, but went on to say that “the institute’s offerings are exactly the type of thing that entices companies to set up shop.”

Initially reported to include as much as 10 million square feet of residential and commercial space, the plan would more than likely evolve should Amazon actually plant its roots in the 78. Related has hired Chicago’s Skidmore, Owings & Merrill to serve in a preliminary master planning and design role.

Newly revealed renderings of the 78 represent the fifth such Amazon-friendly Chicago mega-project to break cover since the tech firm announced its nationwide search for a second headquarters.

Other Chicago prime sites include the 37-acre River District from Tribune Media, Sterling Bay’s Lincoln Yards campus along the North Branch of the Chicago River, 601 W Companies’ redevelopment of Chicago’s Old Post Office building, and the 100-plus-acre plan for the Burnham Lakefront at Bronzeville’s former Michael Reese Hospital.

More information on the Discovery Partners Institute is expected to be revealed tomorrow morning during an official announcement.

Related Midwest