Steve Wiley

Steve Wiley
Senior Vice President

Sustainably preserving and repurposing older buildings and creating entertainment/hospitality venues and high-end apartments and hotels are all dominant themes in the Chicago market.

“There’s a strong movement in Chicago to repurpose existing buildings—mainly empty office buildings for multifamily residences, hotels and entertainment attractions,” says Wiley.

These conversions are “primarily happening in Chicago’s Central Business District and closer-in neighborhoods as adaptive reuse is key to urban renewal and sustainable development,” he says.

As an example, Chicago is seeking to revitalize a corridor of aging high-rise office buildings along LaSalle Street by converting them from offices to apartments and condos.

The city reported in 2022 that 59% of the LaSalle Street buildings predate 1940, that 85% of the real estate is for office use and there is currently no affordable housing on the street.

The goal of the city’s LaSalle Street Reimagined Plan is to create more than 1,000 residential units, with 300 designated as affordable, according to the city. The properties, located on or adjacent to LaSalle Street from Wacker Drive south to Jackson Boulevard, are located in a tax increment finance district that qualifies them for help to cover conversion costs.

Moving away from LaSalle Street, McHugh has executed several adaptive reuse projects of its own. In one such project, the firm revitalized the Ramova Theatre, a long-shuttered cinema that was built in 1929 in Chicago’s Bridgeport neighborhood. The 36,000-sq-ft project included restoring the theater and building-out an adjacent space for a brewery and restaurant.

“This live music venue opened in mid-December 2023 and is already attracting cultural enthusiasts and serving again as a community anchor,” Wiley says.

City Scoop Chicago January 2024

In keeping with the preservation theme, the project required McHugh to restore numerous details while adhering to National Landmark restoration guidelines, which included restoring the theater’s existing marquis and its lobby and auditorium to its original Spanish courtyard style. It also restored the theater’s plaster ceiling and other decorative plaster elements including the vintage ticket booth and the interior’s faux-marble and gilded plasterwork.

As represented by the Ramova Theatre, interest in entertainment and hospitality venues is another trend. McHugh and its joint venture partner Powers & Sons Construction Co., a minority-owned Midwestern general contracting firm, built the $100-million Sable Hotel at Chicago’s Historic Navy Pier. The 223-room, seven-story hotel is part of Hilton’s Curio Collection and is the first Chicago hotel built “on top” of Lake Michigan.

Wiley says the project included many challenges. For instance, McHugh/Powers oversaw installation of 51 new rock-socketed micropiles to support the south half of the hotel. In lieu of large caissons, these high-capacity, small-diameter piles were drilled through the 1960s’ South Dock and below Lake Michigan before they were ultimately socketed in 2 ft of bedrock.

“At a load bearing capacity of 530,000 pounds per pile, these are some of the largest micropiles ever approved for use in the city of Chicago,” Wiley says.

In addition to upscale hotels, there is still room in Chicago for luxury apartments. A project McHugh Construction is currently building is 1000M, a 73-story luxury rental tower designed by the late Helmut Jahn at 1000 S. Michigan Ave. The building features a glass facade and a negative slope that cantilevers over the neighboring building. Opening in 2024, 1000M will offer 738 apartments, ranging from studios to four-bedroom penthouses, and will feature more than 80,000 sq ft of amenity space, including Chicago’s highest rooftop deck on the 73rd floor.

Looking forward to the rest of 2024 , Wiley expects his firm will continue to focus on restoration/renovation projects.

“We’ll continue at McHugh to focus more on adaptive reuse, which is a pillar of our portfolio as our clients respond to demand for this type of product in the multifamily and hospitality market.”

For the market in general, he expects more attention to be paid to the use of sustainable construction materials and processes such as geothermal systems.