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Where the new construction hotspots in Chicago are

Published on Nov. 4, 2021 by Steven Vance

Updated on Nov. 15, 2021

Chicago Cityscape worked with Heather Morrison, CEO of MAP Strategies, to update her on the latest trends and hotspots of where permits and new construction are occurring for a Bisnow event this morning. This partnership allows both MAPS and Chicago Cityscape to provide comprehensive compliance services to our clients.

I turned our discussion of those trends and hotspots into this blog post. All of the information below is also available on Chicago Cityscape in three sections: Images, News, and Developments; Building Permits Browser, and Proposed Projects. Some features are for Cityscape members only — start a free trial today.

Housing

The biggest hotspot for small new construction housing is in Bronzeville, and to a lesser extent its southern neighbors Washington Park and Woodlawn. There are thousands of vacant lots here and they are being developed with market rate single-detached houses and two or three-flats. There are also many market rate townhouse developments scattered across Bronzeville.

Example of new townhouse development in Bronzeville. October 2021.

The presumed effect of the Obama Presidential Center in Woodlawn to spur more housing, now under construction, is not yet visible in building permit data. However, there are several permits for small, multi-unit buildings over a mile from the OPC.

Update November 15, 2021: After a visit to an IIT architecture class to talk to the students about backyard houses, I went on a bike ride along Calumet Avenue from 33rd to 48th Street. There was a lot of construction — being built now, for sale right now, or built and sold within the last couple of years. Peep the photos:

Various houses, detached and attached, on less than 1.5 miles of Calumet Avenue. Lower-right: These three, nearly identical detached houses are part of a development called “Tres Lotes” (three lots), designed by Via Chicago Architects & Diseñadores and developed by WeMi Properties.

The biggest hotspots for medium and large new construction housing are in Bronzeville, the Near South Side (especially the area between the South Loop and Bronzeville), Jefferson Park and Portage Park, Uptown, and the West Loop and Near West Side.

Several new phases of ongoing Chicago Housing Authority redevelopment projects in Bronzeville are permitted or under construction, comprising Oakwood Shores (permitted by MAPS) on Pershing Road east of King Drive and Park Boulevard on State Street south of 35th Street. There are also some as of right — which means no zoning change was required — multi-family buildings under construction in Bronzeville, and a rare South Side transit-oriented development (TOD) with 99 units has been permitted next to the 43rd Street Green Line station.

In the Near South Side there’s a CHA project at State & Cermak, called Southbridge (permitted by MAPS), on the site of the former Harold Ickes Homes. The first phase has two identical buildings under construction, with 103 units each (out of a final number of 877 units). Each building facing Street Street will also have ground floor retail and commercial space.

photo of the south building of Southbridge, looking north along State Street.
Southbridge in June 2021 (permitted by MAPS)

Across the street from Southbridge on State Street is a residential project being partially funded by an Opportunity Zone fund (we find this rare). Two buildings, developed by City Pads, will offer 28 units; the buildings were permitted as of right. The block is also in a TOD, meaning the building’s parking requirements are significantly lessened.

Several miles northwest, in Portage Park, a large new senior housing building (The Clarendale), with an Aldi store, is under construction. Across the street from there, a former Sears store will be converted to housing and retail, with a significant physical expansion upward and outward; the project was approved this year but hasn’t broken ground. (Demolition work started.)

The Clarendale under construction in August 2021. The former Sears store, to be redeveloped by Novak, is on the left.

Following Milwaukee Avenue northwest to Jefferson Park, a new affordable housing development by Full Circle Communities is opening this year with 75 units, and their second affordable housing development in the area, with 48 units, just broke ground. Both Jefferson Park and Portage Park haven’t seen development on this scale in a long time, and they both have plenty of space for new development.

New construction in Uptown is strong, too: Following construction of two large apartment buildings that had move-ins in 2019 — one of which Cedar Street converted a State of Illinois office building (permitted by MAPS) — three more medium and large apartment buildings have been permitted near the Argyle and Wilson Red Line stations.

We’re also still seeing significant residential development in the West Loop and Near West Side, including Fulton Market. Several new condo developments are under construction or have had units go under contract this year across from or within two blocks of Mary Bartelme and Skinner Parks.

Across from Union Park, where the Pitchfork Music Festival is held annually, Marquette Companies is wrapping up construction on two buildings (both permitted by MAPS) that face Ogden Avenue and Randolph Street, within one block of the Ashland Green/Pink Line station. These two buildings will rent out 520 apartments.

Marquette Companies’s two apartment buildings at Ogden/Randolph: 1454 W Randolph Street (left, taken on the weekend of the Pitchfork Music Festival in September), 1400 W Randolph Street.

New housing development goes all the way along Madison Street to Western Avenue, where several as of right developments are wrapping up construction this fall. The owners of these buildings can obtain construction permits without needing a zoning change, and thus break ground before it’s written about in the news.

Office

Even though the Bank of America tower is now open, and the BMO Harris tower across from Union Station will be completed next year, the vast majority of new office buildings is in the West Loop, specifically within the Fulton Market Innovation District (FMID).

Fulton Labs, a new life sciences office building at 400 N Aberdeen (from Trammell Crow) opens this year, and Sterling Bay is currently constructing 345 N Morgan. Sterling Bay has another office building that could be approved this year and obtain permits this year or next.

Not to be left behind, Trammell Crow is proposing a two-building development straddling Carroll Avenue in the FMID between May and Aberdeen Streets. The south building will have offices and the north building will have apartments and face the Metra tracks. What’s unique is that Carroll Avenue will be converted into a kind of shared street, and two plazas between the buildings will blend together.

Metra wants to build a new station at Kinzie Street between Ogden and Ashland (still in the West Loop but just outside the FMID), two blocks north of the Ashland Green/Pink Line station. This is three to four blocks west of where Sterling Bay had proposed a new Metra station several years ago.

Many office buildings were leased since the COVID-19 pandemic began, including 167 N Green Street, Fulton East (215 N Peoria Street), and 800 W Fulton Market.

800 W Fulton Market has distinctive cross bracing on the east and west elevations.

Two miles north, Sterling Bay broke ground on their first office building in Lincoln Yards in October, and it was permitted in October, too. MAPS obtained infrastructure approvals to bring brand new utilities to raw land in order to prep the site for vertical construction for Lincoln Yards South.

Illinois Medical District and other hotspots

Let’s talk about the Illinois Medical District. Marquette Companies seems to love Ogden Avenue. The company renovated the dilapidated Medical District Apartments into “Atrio” (permitted by MAPS) and is building two more apartment buildings next to it, adding 399 dwelling units.

A block southwest from Marquette’s building and future buildings is the Gateway at IMD, which currently features two 1-story commercial and restaurant buildings around a fountain, and has an apartment building under construction. An adjacent hotel in the same development is approved but not yet permitted.

Last year, the Old Cook County Hospital’s rehabilitation and restoration was completed, and two Hyatt hotels moved in. Dr. Murphy’s Food Hall across half the building’s first floor also opened to the public, providing many new meal options for the thousands of healthcare staff, patients, and visitors to the four hospitals.

The Old Cook County Hospital was restored and reopened as a mixed-use development in 2020.

IMD’s Planned Development was modified this year to change the density and parking requirements across the district, to slightly upzone and significantly reduce parking requirements.

Many developments go under the radar, by going the as of right route, using existing zoning allowances so as not to have to change the zoning district. These are more common in neighborhoods miles away from downtown, including Edgewater, Belmont Cragin, and Pilsen. Many of these developments follow the standard 1:1 parking ratio as they are not within transit-served locations.

Accessory Dwelling Units

This article would have a gap if it didn’t alert readers to the upcoming trend of accessory dwelling units (ADUs). Banned since 1957, the City Council re-legalized basement units and coach houses last December. Property owners could apply for permits on May 1, 2021, but the first permit wasn’t issued until September 1, 2021.

This smaller scale construction type will generate new work for general contractors who specialize in small residential and interior renovation projects.

Rendering of a proposed coach house in Ukrainian Village/West Town by BLDG PROJ, soon to be submitted for permit review.
Rendering of a proposed coach house in Ukrainian Village/West Town by BLDG PROJ, soon to be submitted for permit review.

It’s hard to say if there are hotspots with just 10 permits issued, but two have been issued in West Town and Humboldt Park, one in Logan Square, one in Lakeview, and six in the far north side (Edgewater and adjacent Lincoln Square). Dozens more ADU permits are being reviewed by DOB.

Visit Chicago Cityscape’s exclusive ADU portal to learn more and find contact information for over 40 experienced architects.


Where the new construction hotspots in Chicago are was originally published in Chicago Cityscape on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

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