Monday, May 18, 2015

Big Developers Place Bets on Huge South Loop Projects

Last week was quite the real estate week here at Sloopin with two announcements of potential massive developments.  Early in the week it was announced that local developer CMK Co. had inked a joint venture deal on a huge $1.5 Billion development plan along the the Chicago River north of Roosevelt.

While there was speculation and excitement when they did their land grab earlier this year, this was the most concrete news.  A day after the joint venture was announced, they also let it be known who was going to be the master architect for the 10-year project (via
Ralph Johnson, the prolific Chicago architect behind such familiar buildings as the Boeing headquarters, the Skybridge condominium tower in the West Loop and the Rush University Medical Center that overlooks the Eisenhower Expressway, will master-plan a 13-acre project on the South Branch of the Chicago River.
We weren't familiar with Mr. Johnson, but do like the Rush University Medical Center and that project.
South Loop Construction Maps via Crains

If that wasn't big enough news, the real bombshell came when this doozy of a project was announced (via Crain's):
Residential developer Related Midwest is moving in on one of the biggest vacant tracts of land in the city, 62 acres in the South Loop once controlled by now-imprisoned power broker Antoin “Tony” Rezko.  
Chicago-based Related Midwest, one of the busiest developers in the city, has signed a letter of intent to form a joint venture with the property's owner that would develop the site, which stretches a half-mile south from Roosevelt Road to Chinatown along the Chicago River, according to people familiar with the transaction.  
The parcel is big enough for a project that could include several thousand homes and a major shopping center along Roosevelt, the South Loop's main retail strip. Rezko's Chicago-based development firm, Rezmar, unveiled ambitious plans for the tract about a decade ago but failed to get a project going and eventually sold the property a decade ago to its current owner, General Mediterranean Holding, a Luxembourg conglomerate.
While this presumably has a long way to go still, Related Midwest (and for that matter Related Properties) is probably one of a handful of US developers who actually has the experience to pull off a development of this magnitude.

If you don't believe us just read this fascinating story about Stephen Ross, a midwestern born lawyer turned billionaire real estate developer (among other things), who founded Related Properties and is currently in the process of developing New York's $12 Billion Hudson Yards project.

The news of the deal for the "Rezko property" is just one of a slew of Chicago projects that Related has recently had its hands on.  As some Sloopers may remember, this is the company that decided to double down on the neighborhood and buy up 500+ condos in three South Loop towers during the housing bust.  It appears that the bet paid off as last week there was an article in Crain's saying that they've pretty much sold all of those units.

And while the 62-acre south loop land has a lot of transformative potential for the neighborhood and city, it probably wouldn't even be the companies most high-profile project in Chicago.

If you recall, Related Midwest now owns the land at 400 N Lake Shore, home to the amazingly ambitious but now defunct Chicago Spire project.

The moral of the story is that the South Loop real estate development market appears to be red hot again.  Hopefully this round doesn't end up like 2008.

What do you think about all of this?  Good?  Bad?  Scary?  Impossible to really know?

(Hat tip: PO, BZ, DL!)

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