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Pilsen, Little Village, Back of the Yards

Developer Plans Massive 47-Story Apartment Tower East Of Kennedy Expressway

Despite the pandemic, developers are betting big on Downtown’s rental market.

If approved, the 47-story proposal for 640 W. Washington Blvd. would rise across the Kennedy Expressway from the upcoming 48-story Equinox hotel and apartment development, shown center-left.
Hartshorne Plunkard Architecture
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WEST LOOP — A global pandemic and an uncertain economy hasn’t stopped a developer from moving forward with plans to bring a 500-foot-tall apartment building to a prime piece of real estate just east of the Kennedy Expressway. 

Developer Crescent Heights plans to replace the longtime parking lot a 640 W. Washington Blvd. with a 47-story high-rise containing up to 413 apartments, a garage with 137 parking spaces and approximately 8,000 square feet of ground-floor retail space, Ald. Brendan Reilly (42nd) announced Friday in an email to residents.

Designed by West Loop-based Hartshorne Plunkard Architecture, the upcoming project has a slender profile and will occupy the western part of the site. The high-rise will sit atop a “tiered” base with “active amenity spaces and landscaped green roof,” according to Ald. Reilly’s newsletter

The plan would eliminate an existing curb cut and include an internal vehicle drop-off area to “preserve the pedestrian nature of Desplaines and the existing bike lane,” Reilly said in his email. The plan also creates a public sidewalk on Court Place and adds a new pedestrian pathway along its western edge.

Credit: Hartshorne Plunkard Architecture
The base of the proposed tower planned for 640 W. Washington Blvd., overlooking the
Kennedy Expressway, will contain retail space and resident amenities.

Crescent Heights acquired the 35,000-square-foot parking lot bordered by the expressway, Desplains Street, Washington Boulevard, and Court Place earlier this year. The Miami-based developer paid $20.1 million to previous owner Matthew Pritzker Co., which is headed by the cousin of Illinois Gov. JB Pritzker, Crain’s reported in June.

A call to Crescent Heights’s Chicago office was not returned, but company vice president Jason Buchberg told the Chicago Tribune that the developer still needs to secure financing for the tower, which is estimated to cost more than $200 million. The construction timeline would depend on gaining approval from the city and future “market conditions,” Buchberg told the newspaper. 

Although the proposed tower is within a downtown zoning district that permits the construction of tall buildings, the team behind 640 W. Washington Blvd. will need to file a Planned Development application with the city. The Chicago Plan Commission, Committee on Zoning, and City Council must approve the plan before any work can begin. 

It’s unknown if the development will satisfy the city’s affordable housing requirements by including affordable-rate apartments on-site or will pay fees to support affordable units elsewhere. 

Ald. Reilly did not respond to a request for comment, and t’s unclear if the alderman plans to hold any public meetings to discuss the plan or further tweak its design. Reilly’s email encouraged residents to share feedback regarding 640 W. Washington with his staff. 

Crescent Heights is behind roughly a dozen high-rise developments in Chicago. In 2019, the company completed the 76-story, 800-unit Nema Chicago tower along the edge of Grant Park in the South Loop. Rising 896 feet, the skyscraper is the city’s tallest 100 percent rental building. 

If 640 W. Washington becomes a reality, it would join a growing number of new residential towers flanking the Kenedy Expressway in the West Loop. Recent projects in the area include the Parker Fulton Market, 727 W. Madison, and an upcoming Equinox-branded hotel and apartment high-rise.

A little further west, Fulton Market’s apartment boom shows little sign of slowing down — even amid the pandemic and a volatile economy. Work is currently underway on large-scale rental projects at 1400 and 1454 W. Randolph St., and hundreds more apartments are planned for new developments slated for 160 N. Elizabeth St., 906 W. Randolph St., 166 N. Aberdeen St., and 1133 W. Lake St. 

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