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A rendering of a glassy office complex flanked by parkspace and tall high-rise buildings.
A rendering of The 78 and its proposed “side scraper” building.
Related Midwest

13 megadevelopments that will transform Chicago

Go big or go home

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A rendering of The 78 and its proposed “side scraper” building.
| Related Midwest

Chicago developers are making bold plays to turn long-vacant brownfield sites, obsolete industrial corridors, and underutilized historic buildings into sprawling megadevelopments. The recent push to “go big” represents a desire by developers to land big corporate tenants and provide the related housing, retail, and other needs in surrounding mixed-use campuses.

Right now, there are 13 major Chicago megaprojects in the works. Some are already under construction, while others are decades away from completion. Here’s a look at the large, multiphase developments that will reshape the fabric of the city in the years to come.

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1. Lincoln Yards

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1405 W Cortland St
Chicago, IL 60614

Few Chicago developments in recent memory have received as much attention as Lincoln Yards: a $6 billion plan to turn 55 acres of industrial riverfront real estate between Lincoln Park and Bucktown into a sprawling mixed-use campus.

Here, developer Sterling Bay envisions 14 million-square-feet of high-rise buildings supporting 23,000 full-time jobs and 6,000 residential units as well as 21 acres of parkland, three new bridges, and an extension of The 606 trail. To help pay for the public infrastructure improvements, the company has a deal with the city to receive $1.3 billion in controversial tax increment financing (TIF).

No buildings are under construction yet, but Sterling Bay continues to work to reverse the environmental damage caused during more than a century of industrial use by steel mills, tanneries, and recyclers. The developer also installed new soccer fields on the site’s western edge. The entire Lincoln Yards development is expected to take ten years to build.

An aerial view of Lincoln Yards in Chicago. There is a park with trees surrounded by tall city buildings. Sterling Bay/Skidmore, Owings & Merrill

2. The 78

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1364 S Clark St
Chicago, IL 60605

While Lincoln Yards looks to build a neighborhood from scratch on Chicago River’s north branch, developer Related Midwest is planning to do the same on the south branch with its 62-acre mixed-use plan known as The 78. The massive project gets its numerical name from Chicago’s 77 official community areas and aspires to grow that number by one.

Located between the South Loop and Chinatown, the development is approved for 13 million square feet of buildings—some rising as high as 950 feet—which are expected to house a combined 10,000 residential units and 24,000 workers. The site is also earmarked for a University of Illinois-affiliated innovation center and 12 acres of open space.

Before work on new buildings can begin, The 78 has its own set of TIF-supported infrastructure improvements that need to happen, including a realignment of the existing Metra tracks, a new riverwalk, an extension of Wells Street, and a $300 million Red Line station proposed for Clark and 15th Street.

An aerial view of the city of Chicago. There are many tall city buildings, a river, and bridges. Related Midwest

3. The River District

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554 N Jefferson St
Chicago, IL 60654

A third riverfront megadevelopment will rise roughly halfway between Lincoln Yards and The 78, on 30 acres of Tribune Media-owned land in River West. Known as the River District, the 8.5 million-square-foot project has zoning approval for up to 14 mixed-use buildings, supporting an estimated 4,100 residential units and 19,000 jobs.

Phase one of the River District calls for 1,500 units in two high-rises between Grand Avenue and the Ohio-Ontario feeder ramp. Although Tribune Media said that construction could begin soon, the company is currently seeking a buyer or joint venture partner for its River West megaproject.

An aerial view of the River District in Chicago. There are many tall buildings and a body of water. Tribune Media/Solomon Cordwell Buenz

4. Riverline and Southbank

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720 S Wells St
Chicago, IL 60699

Even though developers Lendlease and CMK agreed to part ways and split their $2 billion project in half, the Riverline and Southbank developments will still have a big impact, transforming 14 acres of vacant land along the Chicago River between Harrison Street and Roosevelt Road.

The plan, created by architecture firm Perkins+Will, includes roughly 3,700 residences spread across eight waterfront towers and blocks of townhouses. It also calls for new commercial retail spaces, a riverwalk, and water taxi stops.

So far, only one building, a high-rise apartment tower known as the Cooper at Southbank, has been completed. It is joined by a publicly accessible open space called Southbank Park and a new riverwalk segment south of Harrison Street.

An aerial view of several tall glass buildings in Chicago. Perkins+Will

5. Wolf Point South, East, and West

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343 W Wolf Point Plaza
Chicago, IL 60654
(833) 556-3481
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Located at the confluence of the main, south, and north branches of the Chicago River, Wolf Point is among the city’s most prominent development sites. After spending decades as a parking lot, the high-profile peninsula will eventually host a trio of glassy skyscrapers.

The 485-foot Wolf Point West apartment tower opened in 2016 and will soon be joined by the 660-foot Wolf Point East rental tower, currently wrapping up construction next door. The final piece of the megadevelopment, an 813-foot-tall Salesforce-anchored Wolf Point South office skyscraper, is on track to break ground in 2020 and open in early 2023.

A group of tall glass buildings in Chicago. Hines/Pelli Clarke Pelli

6. Lakeshore East: Vista, Cirus, Cascade, Parcel I, Parcel O

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400 East South Water Street
Chicago, IL 60601

After decades of construction on more than a dozen mixed-use buildings, downtown’s 28-acre masterplanned Lakeshore East community is just five towers away from being complete. The most visible addition is Jeanne Gang’s Vista Tower, which tops off at 1,191 feet and will open in spring 2020.

The supertall hotel and residential tower will be joined by a 47-story condo building known as Cirrus and a 37-story apartment tower called Cascade, which simultaneously broke ground in 2019. Nearby, zoning is in place for an 80-story residential building at Parcel I. Magellan Development’s last piece of the Lakeshore East puzzle is a 650-foot-tall combination apartment and hotel tower proposed for Parcel O.

Many tall city buildings in Chicago. bKL Architecture

7. Old Post Office

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433 W Van Buren St
Chicago, IL 60607

The redevelopment of Chicago’s Old Post Office reached an important milestone in late 2019 when the office tenants began moving into the long-vacant 2.8 million-square-foot structure. The three-year Gensler-designed renovation represented the single largest adaptive reuse project in the country and restored Art Deco lobby and created tenant amenities like a fitness center and a huge rooftop deck.

While the Old Post Office is officially open for business, work continues on other aspects of the building like a planned food court and riverwalk. As more companies move in, the transformative project will continue to change the fabric of the Loop’s southwest corner.

A large building along a riverfront in Chicago. Gensler

8. Union Station

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225 S Canal St
Chicago, IL 60606

Just north of the Old Post Office, another huge plan is underway to redevelop Chicago’s historic Union Station and surrounding Amtrak properties. In late 2019, developers Riverside Investment & Development and Convexity Properties demolished a parking garage south of the station and broke ground on a new 700-foot office tower anchored by BMO Financial Group. The Goettsch-designed high-rise will open in 2022.

Plans are also in the works to redevelop Union Station itself. In recent years Amtrak added the new Metropolitan Lounge, restored the Great Hall and its new skylight, and turned the old women’s lounge into the Burlington Room event space. Looking to the future, the 1925 building will get a new food hall and Clinton Street entrance as well as a renovation of its upper floors into a pair of hotels with a combined 400 guest rooms.

A rendering of a glassy downtown office tower next to a historic Beaux Arts train station. Goettsch Partners

9. One Central

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1590 S Lake Shore Dr
Chicago, IL 60605

The $20 billion One Central proposal would to cap the train tracks west of Soldier Field and build new skyscrapers, parks, and a transit hub above. The 34-acre plan would connect Metra, CTA, and Amtrak trains as well as a proposed “Chi-Line” tramway utilizing the sunken bus lanes between Millennium Park and McCormick Place.

If financing can be secured and local officials sign off on the plan, Landmark hopes to start the three-year process of building the project’s transit center. The full development and its mixed-use high-rises could take more than a decade to complete.

A rendering of the One Central transit hub showing a large multi-level atrium lined with shops and other attractions overlooking train platforms below. Landmark Development

10. Bronzeville Lakefront

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2929 S Ellis Ave
Chicago, IL 60616

A team led by Farpoint Development and Draper & Kramer has plans to revitalize the long-vacant Michael Reese Hospital site located just south of McCormick Place. Known as the Bronzeville Lakefront, the plan envisions a mix of affordable and market-rate housing, a life sciences campus, a data center, dedicated community spaces, and a new 31st Street Metra station.

The multiphase development would start at the site’s southern edge and would stretch north, eventually growing to between 10 million and 14 million square feet in size. The megaproject requires city approval, and its developers still need to close on the property.

If all goes as planned, work on the Bronzeville Lakefront could begin in the first half of 2021. The entire Bronzeville Lakefront build-out is anticipated to take up to 12 years to complete, according to the development team.

An aerial renderings showing a cluster of low and high-rise buildings lining Lake Shore Drive next to Lake Michigan. Courtesy Chicago’s 4th Ward

11. Southbridge

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2310 S State St
Chicago, IL 60616

The Michael Reese site isn’t the only large-scale, multi-phased project in the works for the Near South Side. A joint venture led by the Community Builders and partner McCaffery Interests recently broke ground on the first phase of the redevelopment of the demolished Harold L. Ickes public housing complex near the corner of State Street and Cermak Road.

Known as Southbridge, the 13-acre plan is zoned for 972 mixed-income residences to spread across clusters of townhomes, mid-rise buildings, and a 22-story residential tower. It also includes 65,000 square feet of retail, new public plazas, and at least 270 on-site parking spaces.

A wide overview of a city that includes a cluster of new building next to a highway, school, ane park. Taller buildings and a large body of water are also visible. Ickes Master Developer JV, LLC

12. Obama Presidential Center

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6041 S Stony Island Ave
Chicago, IL 60637

Although it comes from the nonprofit Obama Foundation, this massive $500 million project has all the hallmarks of a megadevelopment. The combination presidential museum and community center will span nearly 20 acres in Jackson Park. It includes a 235-foot-tall tower, an auditorium, an athletic complex, and a Chicago Public Library branch.

The Obama Presidential Center features a stone, almost temple-like design by New York architects Tod Williams and Billie Tsien. Landscape architect Michael Van Valkenburgh Associates will design new

wooded gardens, a bike and pedestrian promenade, a wetlands area, and a playground.

The center was supposed to break ground in 2018 and open in 2021, but that timeline has lapsed due to an ongoing federal review regarding the project’s controversial location within a historic park. A nonprofit environmental group a lawsuit against the $500 million development, and although a judge dismissed the challenge, the decision could be appealed.

A new rendering of the Obama Presidential Center shows a trapezoidal stone tower with an angular facade and screened windows next to a plaza and lower buildings with landscaped rooftops. Obama Foundation

13. Former South Works site

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8080 S Lake Shore Dr
Chicago, IL 60617

This sprawling Far South Side site has eluded redevelopment since U.S. Steel closed its manufacturing plant at the mouth of the Calumet River in 1992. But a report surfaced in 2019 stating that actor and rapper Common was partnering with a group of developers to turn it into a mixed-use entertainment destination.

The latest South Works plan has yet be made public, but reportedly includes a film production studio with 15 to 20 sound stages, a performance venue, a climbing wall, and a skate park. There could also be a Greg Norman-affiliated golf practice facility and social club, according to the report. The site was included on Mayor Lori Lightfoot’s shortlist for potential locations for Chicago’s first casino.

An aerial image of a vacant peninsula along the shores of Lake Michigan. Google Maps

1. Lincoln Yards

1405 W Cortland St, Chicago, IL 60614
An aerial view of Lincoln Yards in Chicago. There is a park with trees surrounded by tall city buildings. Sterling Bay/Skidmore, Owings & Merrill

Few Chicago developments in recent memory have received as much attention as Lincoln Yards: a $6 billion plan to turn 55 acres of industrial riverfront real estate between Lincoln Park and Bucktown into a sprawling mixed-use campus.

Here, developer Sterling Bay envisions 14 million-square-feet of high-rise buildings supporting 23,000 full-time jobs and 6,000 residential units as well as 21 acres of parkland, three new bridges, and an extension of The 606 trail. To help pay for the public infrastructure improvements, the company has a deal with the city to receive $1.3 billion in controversial tax increment financing (TIF).

No buildings are under construction yet, but Sterling Bay continues to work to reverse the environmental damage caused during more than a century of industrial use by steel mills, tanneries, and recyclers. The developer also installed new soccer fields on the site’s western edge. The entire Lincoln Yards development is expected to take ten years to build.

1405 W Cortland St
Chicago, IL 60614

2. The 78

1364 S Clark St, Chicago, IL 60605
An aerial view of the city of Chicago. There are many tall city buildings, a river, and bridges. Related Midwest

While Lincoln Yards looks to build a neighborhood from scratch on Chicago River’s north branch, developer Related Midwest is planning to do the same on the south branch with its 62-acre mixed-use plan known as The 78. The massive project gets its numerical name from Chicago’s 77 official community areas and aspires to grow that number by one.

Located between the South Loop and Chinatown, the development is approved for 13 million square feet of buildings—some rising as high as 950 feet—which are expected to house a combined 10,000 residential units and 24,000 workers. The site is also earmarked for a University of Illinois-affiliated innovation center and 12 acres of open space.

Before work on new buildings can begin, The 78 has its own set of TIF-supported infrastructure improvements that need to happen, including a realignment of the existing Metra tracks, a new riverwalk, an extension of Wells Street, and a $300 million Red Line station proposed for Clark and 15th Street.

1364 S Clark St
Chicago, IL 60605

3. The River District

554 N Jefferson St, Chicago, IL 60654
An aerial view of the River District in Chicago. There are many tall buildings and a body of water. Tribune Media/Solomon Cordwell Buenz

A third riverfront megadevelopment will rise roughly halfway between Lincoln Yards and The 78, on 30 acres of Tribune Media-owned land in River West. Known as the River District, the 8.5 million-square-foot project has zoning approval for up to 14 mixed-use buildings, supporting an estimated 4,100 residential units and 19,000 jobs.

Phase one of the River District calls for 1,500 units in two high-rises between Grand Avenue and the Ohio-Ontario feeder ramp. Although Tribune Media said that construction could begin soon, the company is currently seeking a buyer or joint venture partner for its River West megaproject.

554 N Jefferson St
Chicago, IL 60654

4. Riverline and Southbank

720 S Wells St, Chicago, IL 60699
An aerial view of several tall glass buildings in Chicago. Perkins+Will

Even though developers Lendlease and CMK agreed to part ways and split their $2 billion project in half, the Riverline and Southbank developments will still have a big impact, transforming 14 acres of vacant land along the Chicago River between Harrison Street and Roosevelt Road.

The plan, created by architecture firm Perkins+Will, includes roughly 3,700 residences spread across eight waterfront towers and blocks of townhouses. It also calls for new commercial retail spaces, a riverwalk, and water taxi stops.

So far, only one building, a high-rise apartment tower known as the Cooper at Southbank, has been completed. It is joined by a publicly accessible open space called Southbank Park and a new riverwalk segment south of Harrison Street.

720 S Wells St
Chicago, IL 60699

5. Wolf Point South, East, and West

343 W Wolf Point Plaza, Chicago, IL 60654
A group of tall glass buildings in Chicago. Hines/Pelli Clarke Pelli

Located at the confluence of the main, south, and north branches of the Chicago River, Wolf Point is among the city’s most prominent development sites. After spending decades as a parking lot, the high-profile peninsula will eventually host a trio of glassy skyscrapers.

The 485-foot Wolf Point West apartment tower opened in 2016 and will soon be joined by the 660-foot Wolf Point East rental tower, currently wrapping up construction next door. The final piece of the megadevelopment, an 813-foot-tall Salesforce-anchored Wolf Point South office skyscraper, is on track to break ground in 2020 and open in early 2023.

343 W Wolf Point Plaza
Chicago, IL 60654

6. Lakeshore East: Vista, Cirus, Cascade, Parcel I, Parcel O

400 East South Water Street, Chicago, IL 60601
Many tall city buildings in Chicago. bKL Architecture

After decades of construction on more than a dozen mixed-use buildings, downtown’s 28-acre masterplanned Lakeshore East community is just five towers away from being complete. The most visible addition is Jeanne Gang’s Vista Tower, which tops off at 1,191 feet and will open in spring 2020.

The supertall hotel and residential tower will be joined by a 47-story condo building known as Cirrus and a 37-story apartment tower called Cascade, which simultaneously broke ground in 2019. Nearby, zoning is in place for an 80-story residential building at Parcel I. Magellan Development’s last piece of the Lakeshore East puzzle is a 650-foot-tall combination apartment and hotel tower proposed for Parcel O.

400 East South Water Street
Chicago, IL 60601

7. Old Post Office

433 W Van Buren St, Chicago, IL 60607
A large building along a riverfront in Chicago. Gensler

The redevelopment of Chicago’s Old Post Office reached an important milestone in late 2019 when the office tenants began moving into the long-vacant 2.8 million-square-foot structure. The three-year Gensler-designed renovation represented the single largest adaptive reuse project in the country and restored Art Deco lobby and created tenant amenities like a fitness center and a huge rooftop deck.

While the Old Post Office is officially open for business, work continues on other aspects of the building like a planned food court and riverwalk. As more companies move in, the transformative project will continue to change the fabric of the Loop’s southwest corner.

433 W Van Buren St
Chicago, IL 60607

8. Union Station

225 S Canal St, Chicago, IL 60606
A rendering of a glassy downtown office tower next to a historic Beaux Arts train station. Goettsch Partners

Just north of the Old Post Office, another huge plan is underway to redevelop Chicago’s historic Union Station and surrounding Amtrak properties. In late 2019, developers Riverside Investment & Development and Convexity Properties demolished a parking garage south of the station and broke ground on a new 700-foot office tower anchored by BMO Financial Group. The Goettsch-designed high-rise will open in 2022.

Plans are also in the works to redevelop Union Station itself. In recent years Amtrak added the new Metropolitan Lounge, restored the Great Hall and its new skylight, and turned the old women’s lounge into the Burlington Room event space. Looking to the future, the 1925 building will get a new food hall and Clinton Street entrance as well as a renovation of its upper floors into a pair of hotels with a combined 400 guest rooms.

225 S Canal St
Chicago, IL 60606

9. One Central

1590 S Lake Shore Dr, Chicago, IL 60605
A rendering of the One Central transit hub showing a large multi-level atrium lined with shops and other attractions overlooking train platforms below. Landmark Development

The $20 billion One Central proposal would to cap the train tracks west of Soldier Field and build new skyscrapers, parks, and a transit hub above. The 34-acre plan would connect Metra, CTA, and Amtrak trains as well as a proposed “Chi-Line” tramway utilizing the sunken bus lanes between Millennium Park and McCormick Place.

If financing can be secured and local officials sign off on the plan, Landmark hopes to start the three-year process of building the project’s transit center. The full development and its mixed-use high-rises could take more than a decade to complete.

1590 S Lake Shore Dr
Chicago, IL 60605

10. Bronzeville Lakefront

2929 S Ellis Ave, Chicago, IL 60616
An aerial renderings showing a cluster of low and high-rise buildings lining Lake Shore Drive next to Lake Michigan. Courtesy Chicago’s 4th Ward

A team led by Farpoint Development and Draper & Kramer has plans to revitalize the long-vacant Michael Reese Hospital site located just south of McCormick Place. Known as the Bronzeville Lakefront, the plan envisions a mix of affordable and market-rate housing, a life sciences campus, a data center, dedicated community spaces, and a new 31st Street Metra station.

The multiphase development would start at the site’s southern edge and would stretch north, eventually growing to between 10 million and 14 million square feet in size. The megaproject requires city approval, and its developers still need to close on the property.

If all goes as planned, work on the Bronzeville Lakefront could begin in the first half of 2021. The entire Bronzeville Lakefront build-out is anticipated to take up to 12 years to complete, according to the development team.

2929 S Ellis Ave
Chicago, IL 60616

11. Southbridge

2310 S State St, Chicago, IL 60616
A wide overview of a city that includes a cluster of new building next to a highway, school, ane park. Taller buildings and a large body of water are also visible. Ickes Master Developer JV, LLC

The Michael Reese site isn’t the only large-scale, multi-phased project in the works for the Near South Side. A joint venture led by the Community Builders and partner McCaffery Interests recently broke ground on the first phase of the redevelopment of the demolished Harold L. Ickes public housing complex near the corner of State Street and Cermak Road.

Known as Southbridge, the 13-acre plan is zoned for 972 mixed-income residences to spread across clusters of townhomes, mid-rise buildings, and a 22-story residential tower. It also includes 65,000 square feet of retail, new public plazas, and at least 270 on-site parking spaces.

2310 S State St
Chicago, IL 60616

12. Obama Presidential Center

6041 S Stony Island Ave, Chicago, IL 60637
A new rendering of the Obama Presidential Center shows a trapezoidal stone tower with an angular facade and screened windows next to a plaza and lower buildings with landscaped rooftops. Obama Foundation

Although it comes from the nonprofit Obama Foundation, this massive $500 million project has all the hallmarks of a megadevelopment. The combination presidential museum and community center will span nearly 20 acres in Jackson Park. It includes a 235-foot-tall tower, an auditorium, an athletic complex, and a Chicago Public Library branch.

The Obama Presidential Center features a stone, almost temple-like design by New York architects Tod Williams and Billie Tsien. Landscape architect Michael Van Valkenburgh Associates will design new

wooded gardens, a bike and pedestrian promenade, a wetlands area, and a playground.

The center was supposed to break ground in 2018 and open in 2021, but that timeline has lapsed due to an ongoing federal review regarding the project’s controversial location within a historic park. A nonprofit environmental group a lawsuit against the $500 million development, and although a judge dismissed the challenge, the decision could be appealed.

6041 S Stony Island Ave
Chicago, IL 60637

13. Former South Works site

8080 S Lake Shore Dr, Chicago, IL 60617
An aerial image of a vacant peninsula along the shores of Lake Michigan. Google Maps

This sprawling Far South Side site has eluded redevelopment since U.S. Steel closed its manufacturing plant at the mouth of the Calumet River in 1992. But a report surfaced in 2019 stating that actor and rapper Common was partnering with a group of developers to turn it into a mixed-use entertainment destination.

The latest South Works plan has yet be made public, but reportedly includes a film production studio with 15 to 20 sound stages, a performance venue, a climbing wall, and a skate park. There could also be a Greg Norman-affiliated golf practice facility and social club, according to the report. The site was included on Mayor Lori Lightfoot’s shortlist for potential locations for Chicago’s first casino.

8080 S Lake Shore Dr
Chicago, IL 60617