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Even without Amazon, massive South Loop megadevelopment forges ahead

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“The 78” cleared a key vote by the Chicago Plan Commission

Related Midwest

Though Amazon officially passed on Chicago for its heavily-hyped HQ2 second headquarters, the Seattle-based company’s decision expand elsewhere has done little to derail Related Midwest’s plans to build a sprawling riverfront campus known as “The 78.”

The prominent local developer presented its proposed mixed-use megaproject to city officials on Thursday and walked away with a thumbs up from the Chicago Plan Commission. The vote brings the massive undertaking—slated for a vacant 62-acre parcel between Chicago’s South Loop and Chinatown neighborhoods—one step closer to reality.

While it’s difficult to visualize the enormity of the Near South Side project, the numbers tossed around at Thursday’s meeting shed some light on the The 78’s superlative scope: 13 million square feet of buildable space, 10,000 residential units, 24,000 on-site jobs, and a $7 billion price tag.

The master plan from Chicago-based architecture firm Skidmore, Owings & Merrill calls for numerous buildings—some as tall as 950 feet—set among 11 acres of public open space including a 100-foot-wide riverwalk and a seven-acre crescent-shaped park that shadows the original course of the Chicago River prior to its 1929 straightening.

When completed, the multiphase development will essentially increase Chicago’s count of 77 official community areas by one—hence the numerical name. The site will also be home to a state-funded, university-affiliated innovation center known as the Discovery Partners Institute.

To help pay for it all, the city is exploring the creation of new Roosevelt/Clark tax increment financing (TIF) district. The funding mechanism will support the construction of vital infrastructure like a new CTA Red Line station, an extended 15th Street, and the relocation of Metra tracks, said an earlier report by Crain’s.

Although securing preliminary zoning approval and the future promise of TIF money represents key steps forward, the most vital piece of The 78 puzzle will be landing an Amazon-style corporate anchor to kick-off construction. Who that might be remains a mystery.

“The 78 was a final contender in Amazon’s HQ2 because it contains all the ingredients forward-thinking companies are seeking to attract and retain talent,” said Related Midwest boss Curt Bailey in a statement. “We have had tremendous interest in this compelling new neighborhood from major corporations, cultural institutions, and retailers who share our vision for Chicago’s next great neighborhood.”

The 78’s full Plan Commission presentation can be viewed here.

Related Midwest
Related Midwest
Related Midwest