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Lincoln Park, Old Town

Sprawling North Union Mega-Development On Moody Bible Campus Gets Key City Panel Approval

The Chicago Plan Commission approved the North Union project, which would annex about half of the Christian college's campus to build a mix of residential towers, luxury townhomes, commercial space and 2.5 acres of public parks.

A rendering of the North Union mega-development shows what it will look like in the context of the city.
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NEAR NORTH SIDE — Plans for an 8.1-acre mega-development that would bring more than 2,600 residential units to Moody Bible Institute’s Near North Side campus received approval from a key city panel Thursday.

The Chicago Plan Commission on Thursday approved the North Union project, which would annex about half of the Christian college’s campus to build a mix of residential towers, luxury townhomes, commercial space and 2.5 acres of public parks.

When finished, the 8.1-acre project would bring 2,656 residential units and 30,000 square feet of commercial space to the area, which is generally bounded by the CTA Brown and Purple line tracks to the west, Oak Street to the north, LaSalle Street to the East and West Chicago Avenue and West Chestnut Street to the south.

Construction for the project will be broken up into five phases, beginning as soon as this year and lasting through the next decade, said James Letchinger, founder and CEO of JDL Development, the firm behind the development.

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A rendering of the proposed North Union mega-development shows how the project will be completed in phases over the next decade.

The first phase includes three buildings at the southern tip of the development along West Chestnut Street. The buildings range from 50 to 300 feet in height.

Moving north, the next phase, expected to begin in 2023, features a package of four buildings ranging from 48 to 205 feet tall. The buildings get taller as the project moves north, with phase three including a 475-foot tower and phase four a 380-foot tower.

The project’s final phase, which could begin in 2029, includes building the project’s two tallest buildings — one 620 feet and the other 695 feet, according to the presentation.

Because the project sits on mostly private land, Letchinger said, the development would bring more than $20 million in new taxes to the area. Additionally, it will create 500-1,000 construction jobs every year for the next decade and another 400 permanent jobs once the project is complete.

“Chicago has had a tough year, but we’re still incredibly invested in Chicago and we’re not going anywhere,” Letchinger said.

The project was unanimously approved by the Plan Commission, whose members praised the developers’ commitment to building in Chicago as the city emerges from the coronavirus pandemic.

“This is probably one of the most optimistic developments that I’ve seen since my time here,” said Commissioner Maurice Cox. “I think it comes at a really critical moment for the city as we imagine coming out of the COVID pandemic, so to know that there is this confidence in the future of Chicago bodes incredibly well for us all.”

The project will next go to the Committee on Zoning, Landmarks and Building Standards before reaching the entire City Council for final approval.

Jake Wittich is a Report for America corps member covering Lakeview, Lincoln Park and LGBTQ communities across the city for Block Club Chicago.

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