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Developers to acquire Chicago’s 440-acre South Works site, build 20,000 new homes

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The long-vacant US Steel property at 8080 S. Lake Shore Drive is finally closing in a redevelopment plan

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After a quarter-century of sitting idle, the 440-acre former South Works parcel on Chicago’s Far South Side has officially landed a buyer. Closed in 1992 and long discussed as the site of an ambitious but never-realized redevelopment plan by McCaffery Interests, the lakefront property will finally change hands. Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel announced today that a Purchase and Sale Agreement (PSA) had been reached between US Steel and new owners Emerald Living—part of the WElink Group of Hong Kong—and Spanish-based partner Barcelona Housing Systems (BHS).

Initial plans from WElink and BHS were first revealed earlier this year. Dubbed ‘Chicago 8080 Lakeshore Masterplan’ as a nod to the location’s 8080 S. Lake Shore Drive address, the multi-phase project called for 12,000 modular homes, retail offerings, and public recreational space arranged in so-called “mega blocks.” Though details are still quite sparse, today’s announcement ups the ante considerably by calling for as many as 20,000 housing units. The plan has also officially been rebranded as the New SouthWorks.

The City of Chicago release is pretty vague, mentioning a plan for mixed-use development “with opportunities for commercial retail and office spaces, taking advantage of the extensive lakeshore frontage.” It’s unclear if the mega block approach from the previously discussed plan is still under consideration. It’s also unknown how much the developers agreed to pay for the sprawling site at the mouth of the Calumet River. In January, Crain’s reported that such a transaction could be worth between $55 million and $80 million.

“We are excited by the tremendous opportunity available at the South Works site and look forward to working throughout this due diligence period to determine the best path forward,” said Emerald Living CEO Barry O’Neill via statement. “Over the coming months, we will be working with the city, Aldermen Sadlowski Garza and Mitchell, local community members, and other stakeholders to develop a new, exciting vision for this site and the surrounding South Chicago neighborhoods.”

The half-mile long “ore walls” are all that is left of US Steel’s original South Works plant.
Jay Koziarz