Mayor Lori Lightfoot on Tuesday picked three proposals to breathe new life into Chicago’s Financial District by transforming it into Chicago’s newest residential neighborhood.
The three proposals would invest $550 million in the Loop to build 1,059 apartments in what is now mostly empty office space, including 317 units set aside for low- and moderate-income Chicagoans as part of an effort to reduce segregation in Chicago in return for $188 million in city subsidies, officials said.
Lightfoot, who lost her bid for a second term as Chicago mayor last month, launched the effort to chart a new future for LaSalle Street between Washington Street and Jackson Boulevard, an area of the city significantly changed by the shift triggered by the COVID-19 pandemic in how and where Chicagoans work and shop.
City officials said their goal was to transform the Financial District into an area that is vital 24 hours a day, seven days a week — not just during the work week, as it was before the COVID-19 pandemic.
“By converting underutilized office space to residential units, we will make the Loop a safer, more dynamic and vibrant place to live and work,” Lightfoot said.
The rules set by Lightfoot required any residential development along LaSalle Street to put aside 30% of their units for Chicagoans earning 60% or less of the area’s median income, which is $62,520 for a family of four, according to city data, in order to get millions of dollars in city subsidies from the downtown tax-increment financing district.
By law, TIF districts capture all growth in the property tax base in a designated area for a set period of time, usually 23 years or more, and divert all that growth into a special fund for projects designed to spur redevelopment or for public projects such as schools or bridges.
If TIF district funds are used for private development downtown, it would reverse a 2015 decision by former Mayor Rahm Emanuel to only use that money to fund infrastructure projects.
All three proposals need the approval of the Chicago City Council, and it will be up Chicago’s next mayor – either Brandon Johnson or Paul Vallas – to decide whether to champion the effort launched by their now-vanquished rival.
While the number of people living downtown has doubled since 2000, that growth has bypassed LaSalle Street, where many of the historic buildings were built during a bygone era and are beloved but little used historic landmarks.
City officials received nine proposals to not only build new apartments where cubicle dwellers once worked but also to transform building lobbies into spaces for “cultural or entertainment purposes” and vacant storefronts into grocery stores and restaurants.
The winning proposals are:
- 111 W. Monroe St., where Prime/Capri Interests, LLC wants to spend $180 million to build 349 apartments, including 105 affordable units, and 130 parking spots as part of a development that would include a hotel. The project has requested a $40 million subsidy.
- 135 S. Lasalle St., where Riverside Investment & Development and AmTrust Realty wants to spend $258 million to build 430 apartments, including 129 affordable units, as part of a development that includes a grocery store. The project has requested a $115 million subsidy.
- 208 S. LaSalle St., where the Prime Group wants to spend $130 million to build 280 apartments, including 84 affordable units, sandwiched between two hotels. The project has requested a $33 million subsidy.