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Two glassy towers rise above a low-rise base. They are next to other tall buildings next to a busy highway.
The Equinox Hotel project at 725 W. Randolph Street could start this summer and open three years later.
Related Midwest

15 Chicago developments to watch in 2020

From Vista Tower’s opening to the sale of the Thompson Center, these storylines will define Chicago in the new year

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The Equinox Hotel project at 725 W. Randolph Street could start this summer and open three years later.
| Related Midwest

The new year is here and promises to be a big one for the future of Chicago’s built environment. In 2020, a number of major projects are on the horizon. Expect grand unveilings, significant groundbreakings, and long-awaited openings.

For starters, Vista Tower, the city’s new third-tallest building opens for business, and work on the $8.5 billion makeover of O’Hare International Airport will really ramp up. The year promises to a period of uncertainty too: Will the Thompson Center sell to a private developer, or will the Obama Presidential Center finally break ground?

From shiny skyscrapers to transformative infrastructure improvements, here are 15 Chicago development stories that deserve your attention.

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1. Vista Tower

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345 E Wacker Dr
Chicago, IL 60601

Chicago’s famous skyline has already welcomed the 1,191-foot-tall Vista Tower, which will open its doors in the spring and officially become the city’s third tallest building. The hard-to-miss development features 192 luxury hotel rooms, 396 condominiums, and a stacked frustum designed by Chicago’s own starchitect Jeanne Gang. Vista Tower broke ground in 2016 and is one of downtown’s most anticipated high-rise projects.

2. O'Hare International Airport

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10000 W O'Hare Ave
Chicago, IL 60666

Although Jeanne Gang’s new Global Terminal and SOM’s satellite concourses are still years from breaking ground, 2020 will see work on the $8.5 billion O’Hare modernization project steadily ramp up. Construction on the 10-gate expansion of Terminal 5 is kicking into full swing. New runway 9C/27C will open in the second half of 2020 and efforts to extend runway 9R/27L will continue through 2021. O’Hare’s Airport Transit System, which closed for modernization work, is also set to reopen in early 2020.

An aerial image of an angular airport terminal with large jets connected to the runway. Muller & Muller/HOK/Chicago Department of Aviation

3. Harrison Square

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1835 W Harrison St
Chicago, IL 60612

After surviving years of vacancy and demolition threats, Cook County Hospital’s historic main building will start a new life in 2020 as a Hyatt House and a Hyatt Place hotel. The $132 million project restores the 106-year-old building’s Beaux-Arts architectural details and turns the dilapidated interior into 210 guest rooms. The adaptive reuse of the main building is part of a larger multi-phase effort to redevelop the county-owned land on Near West Side into a mixed-use campus known as Harrison Square.

A rendering of an older beaux-arts with terracotta columns and exterior details. SOM

4. Bank of America Tower

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110 N Upper Wacker Dr
Chicago, IL 60606

When it opens this fall, Bank of America Tower will become the tallest office building completed in Chicago since 1990. The 50-story, 815-foot-tall project broke ground along the south branch of the Chicago River in 2018, replacing the low-rise General Growth (formerly Morton Salt) Building at 110 N. Wacker. The glassy, Goettsch-designed development will bring 1.5 million square feet of office space to the Loop and provides a new riverfront path below the tower’s angled western facade.

A tall building next to a river in an urban setting. Goettsch Partners

5. Wolf Point

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313 W Wolf Point Plaza Drive
Chicago, IL 60654

The multi-phase Wolf Point development will have a big year in 2020. For starters, the 60-story, 679-foot apartment tower at Wolf Point East will welcome residents to its 698 rental units in the first half of the year. If that wasn’t enough, crews are expected to soon break ground on the third and final piece of the Wolf Point puzzle: the 60-story 813-foot-tall office high-rise known as Salesforce Tower Chicago. Both buildings come from architecture firm Pelli Clarke Pelli and include a publicly accessible riverwalk.

The top of a glassy skyscraper overlooking downtown Chicago and Lake Michigan. Pelli Clarke Pelli

6. 725 W. Randolph Street

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725 W Randolph St
Chicago, IL 60661

Related Midwest plans to get started on its mixed-use Equinox Hotel and apartment tower slated for 725 W. Randolph Street as early as this summer. Although previously approved by the city, the West Loop proposal recently returned with a new design that includes a 250-foot-tall office building rising just south of the 550-foot main tower with 370 rental units and 240 hotel rooms. The latest changes will require a zoning amendment before work can begin.

A tall apartment and hotel building standing next to a highway at dusk. The tower shares a base with a shorter office tower. Related Midwest

7. Union Station

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18 W Monroe St
Chicago, IL 60603

The construction around Union Station shows no signs of slowing down in the year ahead. Work continues on the new Clinton Street entrance as well as a new multi-level food hall in the fire-damaged Fred Harvey lunchroom space. There’s also zoning in place to convert the station’s upper floors into hotel rooms. Across the street from the historic train depot, BMO Tower will start its skyward climb at the former site of an Amtrak-owned parking garage. The 700-foot-tall office building is on track to open in early 2022.

An interior of a historic train station filled with passengers. A set of doors lead to a space labeled “food hall.” Amtrak/Goettsch Partners

8. Southbridge

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2310 S State St
Chicago, IL 60616

It’s been a decade since the demolition of the last public housing building of the Harold L. Ickes Homes left 13 vacant acres on Chicago Near South Side. In 2020, that will finally change as work gets going on the multi-phase redevelopment known as Southbridge. The project’s first phase—a pair of six-story buildings with 206 mixed-income units—is currently underway and is expected to open in mid-2021. Future phases could see the total number of residential units surpass 900.

A mixed-use building with ground-floor retail and residential balconies above, on an urban streetscape. Ickes Master Developer JV, LLC

9. Navy Pier Flyover

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N Lake Shore Dr
Chicago, IL 60611

While the Navy Pier Flyover project has been under construction since 2014 and delayed more than times than we’d care to count, the lakefront path is expected to finally wrap up its third and final phase this spring. When complete, the $64 million elevated trail will allow cyclists and pedestrians to avoid automobiles—and, ideally, each other—between Ohio Street Beach and the south bank of the Chicago River.

A photo of an under-construction elevated bike trail supported by wood formwork. Shutterstock

10. Belmont Bypass

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1002 W Roscoe St
Chicago, IL 60657

A key component of the CTA’s massive $2.1 billion Red and Purple Line Modernization (RPM) Program, the Belmont Bypass replaces a congested junction where the Purple, Brown, and Red lines intersect and often cause delays with a new bridge-like structure. Work on the bypass recently kicked into high gear as crews began digging 70-foot holes to support the project’s foundations, according to Block Club Chicago. The Belmont Bypass will open in 2021 while other parts of the RPM project, such as the reconstruction of four CTA stations, won’t wrap up until 2025.

A ground-level rendering showing one set of elevated train tracks passing above another. CTA

11. Wells-Wentworth Connector

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1701 S Wentworth Ave
Chicago, IL 60616

While the massive Near South Side development known as The 78 is estimated to take two decades to complete, one piece of the project—a new roadway known as the Wells-Wentworth Connector—is already underway. Protected on both sides by a tree-lined parkway that separates car, bike, and pedestrian traffic, the Wells-Wentworth Connector will bridge Wells Street’s South Loop dead-end to Chinatown’s Wentworth Avenue. Related Midwest, the developer behind The 78 megaprojects, says it expects the new roadway to be completed by the end of 2020.

An urban streetscape with landscaped buffers separating pedestrians, cyclists, and automobiles. Related Midwest

12. James R. Thompson Center

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100 W Randolph St #4-300
Chicago, IL 60601
(312) 814-6676
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The polarizing James R. Thompson Center could have a pivotal year, now that the state has officially hired a brokerage firm to unload the controversial 1.2 million-square-foot postmodern structure. Will the Helmut Jahn-design building find a buyer in 2020? Will the new owners choose to repair and modernize the existing structure or demolish it for something new?

The soaring atrium of the Thompson Center is clad with blue and red accents and topped by a large circular skylight. Shutterstock

13. Moody Bible Institute redevelopment

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200 W Walton St
Chicago, IL 60610

The Moody Bible Institute is looking to cash-in on a 10-acre plot of land next to its Near North Side campus—a move that could open a large swath of real estate to new development. Combined with a zoning change from the city, the properties could support up to 5.3 million square feet of buildings.

A drawing showing 10 acres of land occupied by parking lots or smaller single-story buildings. Taller buildings stand in the distance. HFF

14. Obama Presidential Center

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6041 S Stony Island Ave
Chicago, IL 60637

Could 2020 be the year the Obama Presidential Center moves forward? We’ll see. The $500 million campus was supposed to start construction in 2018, but saw that timeline slip due to external factors such an ongoing federal historic review and a lawsuit challenging the project’s location in Jackson Park. Even if the Obama Presidential Center doesn’t break ground this year, we should have a better idea about its timing in the months ahead. Stay tuned.

An aerial rendering of an angular stone-clad tower above a sprawling park filled with trees, a lagoon, and play fields. A line of taller buildings and a large body of water is visible in the distance. Obama Foundation

15. 400 N. Lake Shore Drive

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400 N Lake Shore Dr
Chicago, IL 60611

This project has Chicago skyscraper enthusiasts waiting with bated breath. Related Midwest has yet to show what it has planned for the site of the defunct Chicago Spire ever since 42nd Ward Alderman Brendan Reilly rejected its earlier proposal in 2018. Reilly told the Chicago Tribune that the new design would be revealed as soon as the first quarter of 2020, so the wait shouldn’t last too much longer.

A vacant lot with a large circular pit in the center. The site is surrounded by high-rise buildings. Shutterstock

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1. Vista Tower

345 E Wacker Dr, Chicago, IL 60601

Chicago’s famous skyline has already welcomed the 1,191-foot-tall Vista Tower, which will open its doors in the spring and officially become the city’s third tallest building. The hard-to-miss development features 192 luxury hotel rooms, 396 condominiums, and a stacked frustum designed by Chicago’s own starchitect Jeanne Gang. Vista Tower broke ground in 2016 and is one of downtown’s most anticipated high-rise projects.

345 E Wacker Dr
Chicago, IL 60601

2. O'Hare International Airport

10000 W O'Hare Ave, Chicago, IL 60666
An aerial image of an angular airport terminal with large jets connected to the runway. Muller & Muller/HOK/Chicago Department of Aviation

Although Jeanne Gang’s new Global Terminal and SOM’s satellite concourses are still years from breaking ground, 2020 will see work on the $8.5 billion O’Hare modernization project steadily ramp up. Construction on the 10-gate expansion of Terminal 5 is kicking into full swing. New runway 9C/27C will open in the second half of 2020 and efforts to extend runway 9R/27L will continue through 2021. O’Hare’s Airport Transit System, which closed for modernization work, is also set to reopen in early 2020.

10000 W O'Hare Ave
Chicago, IL 60666

3. Harrison Square

1835 W Harrison St, Chicago, IL 60612
A rendering of an older beaux-arts with terracotta columns and exterior details. SOM

After surviving years of vacancy and demolition threats, Cook County Hospital’s historic main building will start a new life in 2020 as a Hyatt House and a Hyatt Place hotel. The $132 million project restores the 106-year-old building’s Beaux-Arts architectural details and turns the dilapidated interior into 210 guest rooms. The adaptive reuse of the main building is part of a larger multi-phase effort to redevelop the county-owned land on Near West Side into a mixed-use campus known as Harrison Square.

1835 W Harrison St
Chicago, IL 60612

4. Bank of America Tower

110 N Upper Wacker Dr, Chicago, IL 60606
A tall building next to a river in an urban setting. Goettsch Partners

When it opens this fall, Bank of America Tower will become the tallest office building completed in Chicago since 1990. The 50-story, 815-foot-tall project broke ground along the south branch of the Chicago River in 2018, replacing the low-rise General Growth (formerly Morton Salt) Building at 110 N. Wacker. The glassy, Goettsch-designed development will bring 1.5 million square feet of office space to the Loop and provides a new riverfront path below the tower’s angled western facade.

110 N Upper Wacker Dr
Chicago, IL 60606

5. Wolf Point

313 W Wolf Point Plaza Drive, Chicago, IL 60654
The top of a glassy skyscraper overlooking downtown Chicago and Lake Michigan. Pelli Clarke Pelli

The multi-phase Wolf Point development will have a big year in 2020. For starters, the 60-story, 679-foot apartment tower at Wolf Point East will welcome residents to its 698 rental units in the first half of the year. If that wasn’t enough, crews are expected to soon break ground on the third and final piece of the Wolf Point puzzle: the 60-story 813-foot-tall office high-rise known as Salesforce Tower Chicago. Both buildings come from architecture firm Pelli Clarke Pelli and include a publicly accessible riverwalk.

313 W Wolf Point Plaza Drive
Chicago, IL 60654

6. 725 W. Randolph Street

725 W Randolph St, Chicago, IL 60661
A tall apartment and hotel building standing next to a highway at dusk. The tower shares a base with a shorter office tower. Related Midwest

Related Midwest plans to get started on its mixed-use Equinox Hotel and apartment tower slated for 725 W. Randolph Street as early as this summer. Although previously approved by the city, the West Loop proposal recently returned with a new design that includes a 250-foot-tall office building rising just south of the 550-foot main tower with 370 rental units and 240 hotel rooms. The latest changes will require a zoning amendment before work can begin.

725 W Randolph St
Chicago, IL 60661

7. Union Station

18 W Monroe St, Chicago, IL 60603
An interior of a historic train station filled with passengers. A set of doors lead to a space labeled “food hall.” Amtrak/Goettsch Partners

The construction around Union Station shows no signs of slowing down in the year ahead. Work continues on the new Clinton Street entrance as well as a new multi-level food hall in the fire-damaged Fred Harvey lunchroom space. There’s also zoning in place to convert the station’s upper floors into hotel rooms. Across the street from the historic train depot, BMO Tower will start its skyward climb at the former site of an Amtrak-owned parking garage. The 700-foot-tall office building is on track to open in early 2022.

18 W Monroe St
Chicago, IL 60603

8. Southbridge

2310 S State St, Chicago, IL 60616
A mixed-use building with ground-floor retail and residential balconies above, on an urban streetscape. Ickes Master Developer JV, LLC

It’s been a decade since the demolition of the last public housing building of the Harold L. Ickes Homes left 13 vacant acres on Chicago Near South Side. In 2020, that will finally change as work gets going on the multi-phase redevelopment known as Southbridge. The project’s first phase—a pair of six-story buildings with 206 mixed-income units—is currently underway and is expected to open in mid-2021. Future phases could see the total number of residential units surpass 900.

2310 S State St
Chicago, IL 60616

9. Navy Pier Flyover

N Lake Shore Dr, Chicago, IL 60611
A photo of an under-construction elevated bike trail supported by wood formwork. Shutterstock

While the Navy Pier Flyover project has been under construction since 2014 and delayed more than times than we’d care to count, the lakefront path is expected to finally wrap up its third and final phase this spring. When complete, the $64 million elevated trail will allow cyclists and pedestrians to avoid automobiles—and, ideally, each other—between Ohio Street Beach and the south bank of the Chicago River.

N Lake Shore Dr
Chicago, IL 60611

10. Belmont Bypass

1002 W Roscoe St, Chicago, IL 60657
A ground-level rendering showing one set of elevated train tracks passing above another. CTA

A key component of the CTA’s massive $2.1 billion Red and Purple Line Modernization (RPM) Program, the Belmont Bypass replaces a congested junction where the Purple, Brown, and Red lines intersect and often cause delays with a new bridge-like structure. Work on the bypass recently kicked into high gear as crews began digging 70-foot holes to support the project’s foundations, according to Block Club Chicago. The Belmont Bypass will open in 2021 while other parts of the RPM project, such as the reconstruction of four CTA stations, won’t wrap up until 2025.

1002 W Roscoe St
Chicago, IL 60657

11. Wells-Wentworth Connector

1701 S Wentworth Ave, Chicago, IL 60616
An urban streetscape with landscaped buffers separating pedestrians, cyclists, and automobiles. Related Midwest

While the massive Near South Side development known as The 78 is estimated to take two decades to complete, one piece of the project—a new roadway known as the Wells-Wentworth Connector—is already underway. Protected on both sides by a tree-lined parkway that separates car, bike, and pedestrian traffic, the Wells-Wentworth Connector will bridge Wells Street’s South Loop dead-end to Chinatown’s Wentworth Avenue. Related Midwest, the developer behind The 78 megaprojects, says it expects the new roadway to be completed by the end of 2020.

1701 S Wentworth Ave
Chicago, IL 60616

12. James R. Thompson Center

100 W Randolph St #4-300, Chicago, IL 60601
The soaring atrium of the Thompson Center is clad with blue and red accents and topped by a large circular skylight. Shutterstock

The polarizing James R. Thompson Center could have a pivotal year, now that the state has officially hired a brokerage firm to unload the controversial 1.2 million-square-foot postmodern structure. Will the Helmut Jahn-design building find a buyer in 2020? Will the new owners choose to repair and modernize the existing structure or demolish it for something new?

100 W Randolph St #4-300
Chicago, IL 60601

13. Moody Bible Institute redevelopment

200 W Walton St, Chicago, IL 60610
A drawing showing 10 acres of land occupied by parking lots or smaller single-story buildings. Taller buildings stand in the distance. HFF

The Moody Bible Institute is looking to cash-in on a 10-acre plot of land next to its Near North Side campus—a move that could open a large swath of real estate to new development. Combined with a zoning change from the city, the properties could support up to 5.3 million square feet of buildings.

200 W Walton St
Chicago, IL 60610

14. Obama Presidential Center

6041 S Stony Island Ave, Chicago, IL 60637
An aerial rendering of an angular stone-clad tower above a sprawling park filled with trees, a lagoon, and play fields. A line of taller buildings and a large body of water is visible in the distance. Obama Foundation

Could 2020 be the year the Obama Presidential Center moves forward? We’ll see. The $500 million campus was supposed to start construction in 2018, but saw that timeline slip due to external factors such an ongoing federal historic review and a lawsuit challenging the project’s location in Jackson Park. Even if the Obama Presidential Center doesn’t break ground this year, we should have a better idea about its timing in the months ahead. Stay tuned.

6041 S Stony Island Ave
Chicago, IL 60637

15. 400 N. Lake Shore Drive

400 N Lake Shore Dr, Chicago, IL 60611
A vacant lot with a large circular pit in the center. The site is surrounded by high-rise buildings. Shutterstock

This project has Chicago skyscraper enthusiasts waiting with bated breath. Related Midwest has yet to show what it has planned for the site of the defunct Chicago Spire ever since 42nd Ward Alderman Brendan Reilly rejected its earlier proposal in 2018. Reilly told the Chicago Tribune that the new design would be revealed as soon as the first quarter of 2020, so the wait shouldn’t last too much longer.

400 N Lake Shore Dr
Chicago, IL 60611