Now it appears the city will receive its proverbial drop of rain, perhaps even a deluge, if plans for several projects fall in place.
When Mayor Rahm Emanuel, developer Hines and members of the Kennedy clan held a May press conference to announce plans for a billion-dollar, three-tower residential and office complex – an event that corresponded with the Chicago-hosted NATO Summit – I found myself wondering. Turns out I was wrong. Sort of. While the office towers aren't due to break ground for a few years, the project's 500-unit apartment building will begin rising in the fall.
Not altogether surprising. For builders, including those in Chicago, apartment construction is the silver lining in the nation's foreclosure fiasco. The good news is that more and more such projects are rising in Chicago, including the 42-story Summit on Lake, which will include 332 units when it's completed in 2014. Others are on the drawing board.
The office market is far spottier, so imagine my surprise to learn that another “planned” high rise I wondered about – the self-described “first speculative office building to rise downtown in more than 20 years” -- has closed on its $400-million financing and will break ground by the end of the year. Named River Front, the 45- to 40-story project will contain 900,000 to 1 million square feet, depending on how well it leases.
Thanks to efforts by Emanuel, a growing roster of tenants is available for such projects, including United Airlines, Sara Lee and MillerCoors, all of which agreed to move all or part their operations to downtown Chicago. Google recently signed a lease for 400,000 square feet in the city's Merchandise Mart.
As Chicago developer John Buck recently told the Chicago Tribune, “I don’t think there’s a crying demand for five million square feet of new office space, but there may be room for one or two million square feet.”
It's a start.