The Real Deal Chicago

Here are the 10 biggest developments completed in Chicago this year

Apartment high-rises dominated the list of most expensive projects finished, especially in the South Loop
By Alex Nitkin |
Research by Haru Coryne
December 28, 2018 12:00PM

From left: Essex on the Park at 808 South Michigan Avenue, The CNA Center 151 North Franklin Street, 727 West Madison Street, and Solstice on the Park at 1616 East 56th Street

Between village-sized mega-developments and new supertalls, some of the most ambitious building projects discussed in Chicago this year were those that have yet to make it out of the ground.

But developers also cut the ribbon on billions of dollars worth of new construction this year, adding millions of square feet in neighborhoods from River North to Hyde Park.

Apartment towers dominated the list of most expensive developments completed in 2018, combining for more than 2,100 rental units. No. 9 Walton, the only condo development on the list, added 69 for-sale homes to the ultra-luxury mix.

Nearly half those rental units materialized in the South Loop alone, where Oxford Capital’s Essex on the Park and Lendlease’s The Cooper at Southbank combined for 931 new apartments. Next year they’ll be joined by the 800-unit NEMA Chicago, and construction will get underway on multiple other  high-profile multifamily projects in the area.

Apartment construction is only expected to accelerate as rents keep climbing, with more than 8,000 apartments expected to be completed throughout the city during the next two years.

All dollar amounts are based on the estimated construction value filed with the city’s buildings department at the time of approval. Together, they amount to more than $1.1 billion in new construction.

1. Essex on the Park | 808 South Michigan Avenue | $160 million

Oxford Capital added 479 units ito the South Loop apartment market when it completed the 56-story Essex on the Park, the most expensive single development to wrap up construction this year.

The Chicago-based developer broke ground on the mixed-use tower in July 2017, simultaneously renovating the next-door Essex Inn Hotel and boosting its capacity from 254 to 271 rooms. Hartshorne Plunkard Architecture designed the tower.

Pre-leasing for the apartments begins Wednesday.

2. 727 West Madison | 727 West Madison Street | $141 million

F&F Realty’s 45-story, oblong apartment tower at 727 West Madison is the tallest west of the Kennedy Expressway.

The building’s 492 units range from 500 to 1,550 square feet each, and they rent starting at $2,000 per month. Planned as far back as 2009, the tower also includes 10,000 square feet of retail space.

3. CNA Headquarters | 151 North Franklin Street | $140.2 million

The John Buck Company’s 35-story building at 151 North Franklin Street was the most expensive office project, and the biggest addition to the Loop, that finished in 2018. CNA Financial took the naming rights to the 807,000-square-foot tower when it moved from the 44-story “Big Red” building at 333 South Wabash Avenue.

The new tower was barely finished when Facebook announced it would bring 2,000 employees and lease 263,000 square feet there, joining CNA and law firm Hinshaw & Culbertson.

4. No. 9 Walton | 9 West Walton Street | $125 million

JDL Development earned back a significant chunk of the nine-figure investment it made in its 38-story condo tower late last year when billionaire Ken Griffin paid a record-smashing $59 million to buy the top four floors.

Since then, condo sales in the 66-unit building have consistently cleared $4 million, claiming three of the 10 priciest home sales in the region this year.

5. (tie) Ashland Place | 33 South Ashland Avenue | $100 million

About two years after Michigan Avenue Real Estate broke ground on a vacant lot at the corner of Ogden and Ashland avenues, a four-story complex with 47 luxury apartments opened to tenants.

The building, designed by Space Architects and Planners, is completely leased, according to its website.

6. (tie) The Cooper | 720 South Wells Street | $100 million

Lendlease polished off the first piece of its 7.5-acre Southbank development with the 452-unit building known as The Cooper, where studio apartments rents starting at $1,900 per month.

Southbank had been part of Riverline, a joint venture with CMK Companies to build thousands of units along a half-mile stretch of the South Branch of the Chicago River, until the firms split in March and divided the site into two developments.

7. Solstice on the Park | 1616 East 56th Street | $97.5 million

More than a decade after the plan surfaced, Antheus Capital finally brought celebrity architect Jeanne Gang’s apartment building vision to life in Hyde Park this year.

Solstice on the Park features 250 one-bedroom, two-bedroom and three-bedroom apartments at the northern edge of Jackson Park, overlooking the futures site of the Obama Presidential Center. Rents start at $1,857 per month.

8. McDonald’s Headquarters | 110 North Carpenter Street | $95 million

The 500,000-square-foot office building Sterling Bay built for McDonald’s became a Fulton Market attraction this spring, thanks to the 6,000-square-foot “international” restaurant the franchise opened on the ground floor.

The fast food giant moved its international headquarters from Oak Brook, where village leaders must now decide the future of the 34 empty acres the company left behind.

9. (tie) Holtschneider Performance Center | 2330 North Halsted Street | $90 million

DePaul University built this 185,000-square-foot performance venue as the “first phase” of a new music complex being built on the Lincoln Park campus. The building includes four concert halls comprising 800 seats, plus classrooms and a cafe.

9. (tie) Old Town Park | 1140 North Wells Street | $90 million

Vancouver-based Onni Group finished the first phase of its four-part redevelopment of the Atrium Village complex near the Cabrini-Green area, opening 404 units across 32 stories.

Onni secured a $125 million construction loan for the second tower, set to include 428 units. A proposal for the 456-unit third phase faced opposition when it came before the Chicago Plan Commission earlier this month and will be heard by the City Council zoning committee in January.

The top 10 Chicago Projects Completed in 2018

RankProjectAddressPermit ValueDeveloperProject Type
1Essex on the Park808 South Michigan Avenue$160,000,000Oxford Capital Mixed-Use Residential
2727 West Madison727 West Madison Street$141,000,000F&F RealtyMultifamily
3CNA Headquarters151 North Franklin Street$140,150,000John Buck CompanyOffice
4No. 9 Walton9 West Walton Street$125,000,000JDL DevelopmentCondominium
5 (tie)Ashland Place33 South Ashland Avenue$100,000,000Michigan Avenue Real EstateMultifamily
5 (tie)The Cooper720 South Wells Street$100,000,000CMK Companies; Lend LeaseMultifamily
7Solstice on the Park1616 East 56th Street$97,500,000Antheus CapitalMultifamily
8McDonald's Headquarters110 North Carpenter Street$95,000,000Sterling BayOffice
9 (tie)Holtschneider Performance Center2330 North Halsted Street$90,000,000DePaul UniversityPerformance
9 (tie)Old Town Park1140 North Wells Street$90,000,000Onni GroupMultifamily