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It’s impossible to ignore the current spike in building developments that have kicked into gear over the last couple of years around the city of Chicago. If the music and arts scene are experiencing a renaissance, the real estate and architecture side isn’t far behind. As any in-tune local is likely to have mentioned some time this year, we have more cranes in the sky and more buildings reaching upwards than ever before in our history. But, with Chicago at the top of the list year in and year out for residents moving out of town, a serious question has begun to arise: what is the point of these developments and who are they for? To begin a lengthy dive into this topic over the next few months we start off by taking a glance around the city and identifying some of the more interesting and impactful projects that are quickly swinging into motion.


Roosevelt Square

Where:

Near West Side near University of Illinois-Chicago. The area formerly known as Little Italy bounded by Cabrini Street on the north, Blue Island Avenue on the east, 15th Street on the south and Ashland or Loomis on the west.

What:

When originally put forward in 2007, the plan was slated for 55 percent of units at Roosevelt Square be owned by Chicago Housing Authority, 30 percent as affordable housing and 33 percent would be market-rate units.

When:

Began in 2007 before recession paused development. Beginning again in 2017/18.

Details:

Originally the site of blocks of ABLA public housing buildings built in the late 1920s and early 30s WPA programs were bulldozed in 2007 to make room for a new mixed-use development. That project stalled after demolition due to the recession and to date, according to DNAInfo, “To date, only 575 of the proposed 1,085 CHA units, 313 of the proposed 846 affordable units and 159 of the proposed 1,466 market-rate units have been developed.”


Riverline

Where:

14-acre site bounded by Harrison, Roosevelt, Wells, and the Chicago River in the South Loop. Formerly vacant lots surrounding Bertrand Goldberg’s iconic 1986 River City.

What:

Plans call for 3,600 residences spread across eight buildings that will line the Chicago River to it’s west. The development is planned as a series of high-rises and mixed-use townhouses. The first phase lays plans for a 29-story tower containing 420 rental units and an 18-story, 251-unit tower. Plans also include green space and a riverwalk.

When:

Ground was broken this year and construction is expected to take part in phases.

Details:

Riverline is a project that has been on the city’s list for a long time and is now finally getting under way. Long a somewhat forgotten part of the Loop, the area of the river that is occupied by River City has long been a bit desolate, especially down Wells St. That was fine for anyone living in the all-inclusive, mixed-use tower but the gradual creeping of the south loop has exasperated the need for more housing stock and in Rahm Emanuel’s Chicago that means glass high-rises. See, Emanuel doesn’t think about anyone but the hyper-wealthy and despite an evaporating middle class and disappearing low-income housing, this will turn into another paved-over platform from which the rich can selfie their afternoons away.


U.S. Steel South Works

Where:

Area stretching from 79th Street to the Calumet River east of Lake Shore Drive

What:

20,000+ homes are slates for the former U.S. Steel site along the lakefront on the city’s south side. In addition,

When:

In the works now. Emerald Living bought the 440-acre site from U.S. Steel back in January and have since made steps towards breaking ground. The project, which has been long-awaited, was sped up by the extension of Lake Shore Drive through the area in 2013 from 79th to 92nd streets.

Details:

One of the most talked-about developments in the city today, the former U.S. Steel site just east of Lake Shore Drive between 79th St. and Calumet River is expected to see one of the most dramatic facelifts the city has experienced yet. Once a foundation of the south side that closed its doors in the 70s, the site of steel factories and shipping yard will be turned into a 21st Century living experience utilizing long-abandoned lakeshore property on the south side. It will be interesting what 20,000 homes in this part of the city will do to the make up of the area around it, including Hyde Park, South Shore and everything further south and west that have long been known as the city’s roughest locales. In a 2016 WBEZ piece, the question of what will happen to the Willis Tower in 150 years was asked. In one scenario, architecture experts pointed to the possibility of a “second Loop” near South Shore as the city expands. Should that hold true, there’s a good chance this development could be catalyst.


Lathrop Homes

Where:

What: One of the city’s best-preserved and most-effective public housing structures, Lathrop Homes have struggled against efforts by HUD and city officials to move out residents for ‘renovations’ which are never actually finished. Because of the increased gentrification of Lincoln Park and Wicker Park/Logan Square, many developers in the area have attempted to divert it from low-income housing and continue a wave of cheap, yuppy enclaves along the Chicago River.

When:

The city of Chicago and CHA last month approved plans to demolish two-story building along Hoyne St and to build one new building, the first in a larger plan.

Details:

The 32-acre plot that houses the Lathrop Homes has come under attack by gentrifiers for some time now and it seems as though they may be marginally winning. While demolition of some of the two-story buildings which went up in 1937 and have largely stayed in good condition despite failure by CHA to keep up regular maintenance. Because of a hefty amount of money available from the federal government for historic preservation credits, developers Related Midwest have chosen to find ways to reimagine the existing structures, although the issue of low-income housing is still an issue.


North Branch River Development

Where:

North of Chicago Ave and Halsted St. along the North Branch Canal. Includes east side of Goose Island.

What:

Current plans call for an overhaul of the corridor which for most of the history of the city has served as an industrial center. Creeping gentrification looks to jump the river in the form of a four building development that will house a “310-unit apartment tower and more than 1.2 million square feet of office space.” Plans were unveiled by Tribune Media and its partner on the project, Riverside Investment & Development. Part of a large-scale zoning change for the area, it will add several high-rises to the area that has become a hotbed with 600 W Chicago building housing Groupon’s headquarters just across the canal.

When:

Almost immediately. As anyone who’s spent even a couple of years on the north side knows, developments in the city, especially in the west loop and along the Milwaukee Ave ‘Gentrification Highway’ have a tendency to move quick and this one is no different. Zoning changes were quickly approved and it appears Rahm Emanuel is eager to continue to appease tech companies who he sees as the city’s future lifeline.

Details:

One of the more aggressive and fast-paced developments in the city, the North Branch development project was announced as moving forward in early September 2017 and has plans to sit just behind the Chicago Tribune’s Freedom Center where the paper is printed but will demolish part of a vacant distribution center to make room for the glass-paneled building and riverwalk. Just as details here were being solidified, news of Amazon’s search for a new home spurred developers Sterling Bay to put the campus, which reportedly could generate up to 50,000 jobs. It would be a big change for the Goose Island area that sits just north of the tower development. It’s an area close in proximity to the growing downtown Loop that has long been designated an industrial and manufacturing oasis surrounded by Lincoln Park to the east, River North to the south and Wicker Park to the west. With the added development of towers and possible inclusion of Amazon on the island, it could be facing significant changes not seen since the city demolished all but four bridges running through it in the 90s to quell the flow of crime from Cabrini-Green to the near west side.


South Loop Train Yards/’Rezkoland’

Where

Former train yards located south of Roosevelt Road to the north, Chicago River to the west and Clark Street to the east and 18th Street to the south. Previously owned by embattled businessman Tony Rezko, it has long been called ‘Rezkoland‘.

What

A site as old as the city itself, the former train yards have seen decreased use over the last few decades and is now facing the inevitable Chicago evolution towards commercial and residential. A plan for Wells St to extend through the 62-acre area to connect the South Loop to Chinatown is also underway.

When

Currently underway, construction beginning in 2019.

Details

The home of industry in the city where trains crosses back and forth across the country has since been dug up and prepped for the developers. The space, owned by Related Midwest, is one of the most aggressive and ambitious projects happening anywhere in the city. The space south of Roosevelt has sat vacant in a prime location just blocks from Michigan Avenue in the buzzing South Loop has long been an overgrown albatross most often frequented as a popular camping spot for the city’s homeless who were displaced months ago when Related Midwest finalized their deal and cleared the forest-like environment that had overtaken the forgotten train yards. The enormous site (bigger than Millennium Park) will eventually house a mic of commercial and residential high and mid-rise buildings that should serve to change the complexion of the South Branch of the Chicago River for good. The tract of land has a history that is as Chicago as it gets, and appears ready to enter into the 21st Century Rahm Emanuel era of the city as yet another collection of glass-lined structures along the River. According to the Tribune, “Related Midwest, is involved in several high-profile projects in Chicago, including ongoing plans for the Lakeshore Drive site where the 150-story Chicago Spire residential tower was once planned. Related Midwest also completed and sold OneEleven, a 60-story apartment tower on Wacker Drive, and has constructed 26 stories of the 67-story One Bennett Park residential tower in Streeterville.”

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