Related Midwest gets first city approval for The 78 megadevelopment

The $7B project in the South Loop could include 10,000 new homes, a new riverwalk and a new Red Line stop

A rendering of The 78
A rendering of The 78

Related Midwest can move forward with its neighborhood-sized South Loop development after winning initial approval from the Chicago Plan Commission Thursday.

Called “The 78,” the project planned for an undeveloped riverfront plot south of Roosevelt Road calls for 13 million square feet of new residential, office and hotel space. It’s referred to as The 78 for its ambition to add an entire new neighborhood to the city’s 77 officially recognized community areas.

Related hasn’t detailed many specifics of its plans, but its development application said the $7 billion project would include up to 10,000 residential units, several mixed-use buildings with office space and ground floor retail, a riverwalk and a publicly accessible green space. The zoning change approved Thursday would allow buildings to top out at 950 feet.

At a public presentation in May, Related officials said the plan would include a seven-acre public green space as well as a riverfront promenade.

The project would require about $500 million in public infrastructure improvements, including a possible new CTA Red Line stop near 15th and Clark streets, a reconfiguration of Metra’s Rock Island tracks on the east side of the site, an extension of Wells Street from Roosevelt to Chinatown and improvements to 15th and LaSalle streets.

Curt Bailey

The infrastructure improvements will be the first to get underway and could begin “within the next couple of months,” Related CEO Curt Bailey said. The rest of the project’s timeline remains up in the air, he said.

“I want to move as quickly as we can,” Bailey said. “It really depends upon the office side of this. We made a decision early on in this … that we really needed an office portion to drive this development”

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Related will apply for TIF funds to use for the infrastructure improvements, city officials said. That would require The 78’s residential component to include 20 percent affordable units.

That would require about 2,000 affordable units if Related builds its maximum allowed 10,000 residences. About 500 of those units would be built in site at The 78. As many as 1,000 affordable units would be built off site, and a quarter of those would have to go in the Pilsen-Little Village Affordable Requirement Ordinance pilot zone that was proposed this week, according to city officials.

Related will also make a $10 million payment to the Affordable Housing Opportunity fund that will be a down payment on the in-lieu fees it will be required to pay for the affordable units it doesn’t include, according to the city.

The 78 was one of the sites in the running to land Amazon’s second headquarters[], with Amazon officials making a return visit to Chicago in August to tour the 62-acre site as the selection process would down.

Though Amazon passed on Chicago, Bailey said The 78 will remain an attractive site for major corporations and retailers.

“We have had tremendous interest … from major corporations, cultural institutions and retailers who share our vision for Chicago’s next great neighborhood,” he said.

Related bought the South Loop site in 2016, making it the latest in a long line of owners that included disgraced Democratic Party fundraiser and convicted felon Tony Rezko.