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New apartments, townhomes, museum, and library proposed for Chicago’s Little Italy

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Developers are looking to make big investments in the Near West Side neighborhood

The 410 units of the rebranded SCIO apartments are being renovated and will be joined by a new 19-story tower.
Jay Koziarz

While the West Loop continues to heat up, some of the energy is migrating south over the Eisenhower Expressway to Chicago’s University Village/Little Italy neighborhood. With its proximity to downtown and the Illinois Medical District, transit options, and an established commercial corridor on Taylor Street, developers are taking notice. At a meeting last night, several upcoming developments were shown to residents—many of which were surprisingly eager to see their neighborhood’s vacant and underutilized land revitalized.

SCIO at Medical District

Image courtesy of Focus Development

Built in the 1970’s and previously known as the Medical District Apartments, the twin towers along Ashland Avenue between Taylor and Polk are in the midst of a major, multi-phase renovation and expansion. A joint venture comprising of Guggenheim Partners, Atlantic Realty Partners, and Focus Development have rebranded the complex as ‘SCIO’ and have already rehabbed about 25 percent of the property’s existing 410 rental units with new finishes. A new 9,000 square foot amenity pavilion is also part of the project’s first phase.

SCIO’s next phase would see the construction of the neighborhood’s first class-A, investor-grade apartment tower. Slated to replace the site’s two-story parking deck at the corner of Ashland and Taylor, the glass 19-story addition comes from Chicago’s bKL Architecture. It would contain 253 apartments and 28,000 square feet of commercial retail space that could potentially attract a much-needed grocery store as a future tenant. A new parking garage would set aside 23 spaces for retail, 134 spaces for residents in the existing apartment building, and 88 for the new tower.

The tower will serve as a sort of visual anchor for Taylor street where it transitions from institutional to mixed-use commercial. Meanwhile, an identical two-story garage that currently occupies the north corner of the parcel is expected to be the site of SCIO’s third phase. According to Focus Development’s Christine Kolb, the final design and programming for this parcel is being worked out at this time. The development team is still seeking zoning entitlements for the project’s high-rise phases and could host one additional meeting in the future.

Roosevelt Square townhouses

Image courtesy of Related Midwest
Image courtesy of Related Midwest

↑ Next, Related Midwest presented updates to the master plan for its multi-phase Roosevelt Square project. So far, the developer has delivered 600 of a planned 2,400 housing units planned for the 120-acre site. With its timeline for the massive mixed-income development severely disrupted by the Great Recession, Related is finally ready to go back and start filling in some of Roosevelt Square’s “missing teeth.”

According to Related’s Jacques Sandberg, the next phase would involve the construction of 50 for-sale townhouses along Grenshaw Street between Throop and Loomis. Designed by Chicago-based architect Brininstool + Lynch, the contemporary brick-clad homes would range in size from 1,800 to 2,100 square feet with pricing in the $650,000 to $850,000 range. With construction anticipated to begin this fall, the success of this next phase will determine the timeline for Related’s future plans for the sprawling, multi-lot Roosevelt Square site.

National Public Housing Museum

Rendering by Landon Bone Baker, courtesy of the National Public Housing Museum

↑ New market-rate housing is an encouraging sign of the neighborhood’s recent resurgence. However, another upcoming development aims to provide an injection of culture and history. The National Public Housing Museum—the country’s first cultural institution dedicated to interpreting the American experience in public housing—is looking to soon set up shop at 1322 W. Taylor Street.

The museum will occupy and restore the last remaining building of Chicago’s long-gone Jane Addams Homes. The museum recently signed an agreement to lease the site for 99 years from the CHA for $1. According to Dr. Lus Yun Lee, the institution’s newly named executive director, the project has raised $2.9 million towards its $7.5 million goal. With fundraising efforts ongoing, the museum is on track to open in September of 2018.

Roosevelt Branch Library


↑ Though not specifically discussed at yesterday’s meeting, Little Italy is also expected to be the recipient of a new library/mixed-income housing development near the intersection of Taylor and Ada streets. A joint project from Chicago Public Libraries and the Chicago Housing Authority, the four-story project comes from Skidmore, Owings & Merrill (SOM) and will feature extensive rooftop green space and wooden sun screens.

The Little Italy development is one of three such public library/housing projects announced earlier this year with other such “co-locating” developments planned for Chicago’s West Ridge and Irving Park neighborhoods. The Roosevelt Branch proposal will get its own public meeting later this summer. The City of Chicago hopes to break ground on the project by the end of this year with completion anticipated for winter of 2018.