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New renderings of River District development show up for Amazon’s Chicago visit

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The images appeared on waterside banners along the North Branch of the Chicago River

This sign appeared next to the Ohio Street Bridge.
Photo courtesy of Kevin Doyle

The red carpet isn’t the only thing civic and corporate leaders rolled out for Amazon’s big Chicago visit, as new banner signs showing updated renderings of the River District megadevelopment suddenly showed up on-site.

One of ten Chicago area locations named in the city’s official bid for Amazon’s ‘HQ2’ second North American headquarters, the 37-acre River West development site is currently owned by Tribune Media and home to the sprawling Freedom Center printing plant.

Compared the initial renderings released by Tribune Media and architect Solomon Cordwell Buenz last fall, the Amazon-specific site plan shows considerably taller buildings flanked by greater amount of open space. A closer look at the images reveals a new pedestrian bridge near Eerie Street and Amazon’s unmistakable orange logo topping one of the glassy office towers.

The River District plan is currently divided into two pieces. The larger, 30-acre southern portion holds the biggest potential for future development but it will need a zoning change to move forward.

A plan for the northern portion at 700 W. Chicago Avenue was approved by the Chicago Plan Commission in January. The first phase of four-tower development is expected to break ground later this year regardless of the Seattle-based tech giant’s decision on HQ2.

Though Amazon’s exact Chicago itinerary is a closely guarded secret, it’s possible from the positioning and orientation of the signs that Amazon’s team was meant to view them from the water. Company reps are also expected to visit other HQ2 candidate sites including Lincoln Yards, The 78, and Chicago’s Fulton Market District.

Chicago was among the 20 North American cities to make Amazon’s HQ2 “short list” earlier this year. The company is expected to announce its final selection some time this year and begin construction as soon as 2019. According to Amazon, the fiercely competetive HQ2 deal is worth up to 50,000 jobs and $5 billion of investment.

A second rendering appeared on the western bank of the river across from River North’s Ward Park.
Photo courtesy of Kevin Doyle
Amazon’s logo (center).
Photo courtesy of Kevin Doyle