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Massive Redevelopment Of Tribune Printing Plant, Union Station Gets The OK From Key City Commission

The $2.5 billion project could break ground in 2020 and faces two more votes at City Hall before it wins final approval.

A rendering of the proposed development on what is now the Tribune printing plant.
Solomon Cordwell Buenz
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DOWNTOWN — Efforts to remake former industrial land along the Chicago River west of The Loop advanced Thursday, after the Plan Commission gave the green light to the massive redevelopment of the Tribune printing plant.

The $2.5 billion project at 777 W. Grand Ave. will include 14 mixed-use buildings and nearly 4,100 residential units once completed. It could break ground in 2020, officials said.

It faces two more votes at City Hall before it wins final approval.

The first phase between Grand Avenue and the Ohio Street feeder ramp includes four buildings, ranging between 12 stories and 50 stories, with 1,500 units between them.

Under the city’s affordable housing ordinance, 300 of the units in the first phase will be set aside for low- and moderate-income residents. The final three phases call for 3,600 more residential units to be built and 520 set aside as affordable on site, officials said.

Ald. Walter Burnett (27th) said he would not have supported the proposal to change the property’s zoning from DS-5, Downtown Service to Downtown Mixed Use and then to a Waterway Air Rights Business Residential Planned Development unless all of the affordable units were on site.

“That was crucial,” Burnett said, adding that he still hopes Amazon is considering the project for its second headquarters. The alderman said he was also pleased Riverside Investment & Development reached an agreement to relocate a Salvation Army facility.

The first phase will include a 1.6 acre riverfront park. Once the development is completed more than it will have 12 acres of public open space, or approximately half the site.

In addition, the developer of the project plans to pay $67 million into the Neighborhood Opportunity Fund in return for permission to add more units than city law would otherwise allow. Eighty percent of those funds are then used for grants designed to spur investment on the West, Southwest and South Sides.

That would be the largest contribution to the fund in its history, topping the $22 million set to be paid by the developers of 110 N. Wacker Drive by more than 200 percent, officials said.

Because the project is on formerly industrial land, the developer will also pay $13.7 million into the Industrial Corridor System Fund, its first significant contribution, Department of Planning and Development Commissioner David Reifman said.

The fund will help keep industrial areas of the city strong by funding job training and other needed improvements, Reifman told the Plan Commission.

Commissioners also approved plans for the redevelopment of Union Station — long a priority for Mayor Rahm Emanuel and Ald. Brendan Reilly (42nd.)

Plans call for a one-story 400-room hotel to be built above the station’s head house, which contains the station’s iconic great hall, replacing several floors of office space currently used by Amtrak as proposed by Riverside Investment & Development and Convexity Properties.

The second phase of the project features a 50-story office tower and 2.3 acre public park at the site of an existing Amtrak parking garage across the street from the station.

The office tower was designed by Goettsch Partners, while the renovation of the station has been designed by Solomon Cordwell Buenz.

Reilly said the flow of traffic — snarled by ride-hailing cars and buses — would be smoothed by planned improvements that include designated pick-up and drop-off zones enforced not only by traffic control officers but also by using geo-fencing software to define boundaries.

In addition, the public park will be a “wonderful offset” to the increased density the project will bring to the area, Reilly said.

“This has been a long and difficult process that began with a UFO being landed on the headhouse,” Reilly said. “I much prefer the current plan.”

The commission also approved a 50-story plan under the Chicago Lakefront Protection Ordinance for 193 N. Columbus Drive in Lakeshore East with 640 residential units and 570 hotel rooms. The project from Magellan Group and designed by bKL Architecture does not need a zoning change.

In addition, commissioners approved a $1.1 billion project to build three towers set to rise 85, 50 and 40 stories tall along Lake Shore Drive south of Wacker Drive. The towers from developers Magellan Group and Lendlease and designed by bKL Architecture will include 1,700 residential units, officials said.

The development had been the subject of two of the best-attended community meetings during his time on the council, Reilly said, adding that more than 1,000 people attended the sessions.

“As this is the last meaningful development opportunity in this area, that’s appropriate,” Reilly said.

Two River North projects also got the green light from the commission.

At 353 W. Grand Ave., Onni Group and Brininstool + Lynch plans to build a 41-story, 356-unit tower with shops on the ground floor. The $90 million project will contribute $5.8 million into theNeighborhood Opportunity Fund and include 36 units on site for low- and moderate-income residents.

At 444 N. Dearborn St., a 42-story tower will replace the Engine Co. 42 firehouse with a new Chicago Fire Department facility topped by a nearly 42-story office tower designed by Goettsch Partners.

“We are getting a free $20 million state-of-the-art fire station for free,” Reilly said. “That is a huge win for the city.”

On the North Side, Structured Development, LLC won the Plan Commission’s approval build a eight-story building with 197 units at 1505-35 N. Dayton St. along with 56 parking spaces on what is now the nonprofit Menomonee Club community center in the Clybourn Corridor. The $45 million project will include five affordable units on site and pay $1.93 million into the Affordable Housing Opportunity Fund, officials said.

The developer also won approval to build a new recreation center for the Menomonee Club as part of an adjacent commercial development Shops at Big Deahl project at the corner of Blackhawk and Kingsbury streets. That six-story project includes shops and offices as well as two additional three-story commercial buildings. The $56 million project also includes an 18,000-square-foot public green space and plaza, officials said.

The site, which is now zoned C3-5 — Commercial Manufacturing and Employment — would be changed to C1-5, neighborhood commercial.