WEST LOOP — A developer unveiled its plans for a five-story retail and office building at the corner of Randolph and Carpenter streets this week.
The middle of a pandemic and unprecedented economic pause might seem like a poor time to pitch yet another project for the increasingly crowded West Loop. Still, Chicago-based developer L3 Capital is betting that its proposed building’s location, timing and smaller size will give it a leg up on the competition.
The building at 1020 W. Randolph St. would replace a former MB Financial bank branch at the site.
“There is a retail void in the West Loop for the amount of density and daytime population,” said Whitney Robinette of L3. “We feel that this block of Randolph will continue to grow from a retail perspective, and we’ve seen retail trending toward Randolph compared to other streets in the area.”
The development team is open to all retail users, but said there is a restriction put in place by MB Financial which prohibits leasing the future space to a bank. Although L3 will focus on securing retail tenants first, the building’s relatively small 37,000-square-foot size — which includes a partial basement and rooftop terrace — could also work to its advantage.
“It’s hard to find small, boutique new construction office space, so we feel there will be demand for smaller space,” Robinette said. “We think this size is going to be pretty attractive in a post-pandemic world.”
The proposal will require a zoning change from city officials to move forward. L3 plans to seek approvals this fall and break ground on the project the following year. Anticipating a 12-month construction timeline, the developer aims to complete the new building in March 2022.
L3 acquired the property in October 2018, and has met with Ald. Walter Burnett Jr. (27th) and three community groups to discuss its plans earlier this year.
Although the site is within the Fulton-Randolph Historic District, the existing bank is considered a non-contributing structure and is therefore not protected from demolition. The design for its replacement is traditional and looks more like the area’s vintage former warehouses than some of its newer, glassy neighbors.
“We looked at cues we could take from the neighborhood,” explained Jillian Agdern of Hartshorne Plunkard Architecture. “Our approach was to take old construction practices and interpret them for a contemporary use.”
The exterior would be comprised of detailed red masonry work, charcoal gray window frames, and bands of exposed steel above the retail base and the cornice at the top of the building.
Both the existing and proposed zoning for the West Loop parcel requires zero on-site parking. The project would also seek to eliminate existing curb cuts used by the drive-through and plant new parkway trees along both Randolph and Carpenter.
During the written Q&A portion of the virtual meeting, West Loop resident Levar Hoard said he was concerned about the narrowness of the alley behind the development site. Although the proposed building at 1020 W. Randolph won’t widen the alleyway, it will locate its dumpsters out of the way and within its property lines, Robinette said.
Neighbor Christine Lutz said she thought the five-story project “is a good use for the site” and that the proposed use of the alleyway is consistent with its current role, which accommodates garbage pick-up and deliveries for the block’s existing retailers.
Ann Nolan said she was concerned about increased traffic along Carpenter St. The space in front of the former bank is often used by shuttles serving the nearby McDonald’s headquarters and is a regular site of traffic jams, she said.
If approved, the project will join several high-profile new developments in the works on Randolph Street, including the 48-story Equinox hotel-and-apartment tower at 725 W. Randolph and a 43-story rental tower planned at 906 W. Randolph.
In the meantime, city planners are drafting a comprehensive plan to “reimagine the historic corridor.” Known as the Randolph Street Corridor Improvement Study, the upcoming plan will explore transportation solutions, opportunities for new public spaces and potential reconfiguration of the main street and its twin parallel service drives.
The development meeting was co-hosted by the West Loop Community Organization and Ald. Walter Burnett Jr. (27th).
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