Attention, developers: 415-acre South Works site could get split up

After several plans development plans failed on US Steel’s massive property, the city wants the land to be divided up then sold off

Jan.January 17, 2020 12:00 PM
Steel South Works Site (Credit: Google Maps, iStock)

Steel South Works Site (Credit: Google Maps, iStock)

The 415-acre stretch of property along Lake Michigan is ripe for development, but it’s too big for one developer.

That’s according to Chicago’s planning commissioner, who thinks a better approach to the former site of U.S. Steel’s South Works is to split it into pieces then sell it to developers, according to the Chicago Sun-Times. U.S. Steel, which still owns the land, closed the plant in 1992 and demolished it.

Chicago planning commissioner Maurice Cox

Chicago planning commissioner Maurice Cox

Bigger than the entire area of downtown Chicago, the property has sat vacant since 1992, with the exception of 2011 when it was used as a venue for a Dave Matthews Band concert.

Several attempts have been made to develop the property into housing megadevelopments, but all fallen through.

“Imagine what would happen if there was a robust economy centered on the site,” Planning Commissioner Maurice Cox said on the Sun-Times’ “Fran Spielman Show.” “It would shift the center of gravity in the city.”

One of the many proposals to develop the massive property came from Chicago rapper Common, who proposed a $71 million mixed-use complex. The proposal included a film studio, hotels and multiple concert venues. But Cox said his department has seen no formal proposal from the rapper.

Another came from Chicago-based McCaffery Interests and U.S. Steel, which worked for 12 years on a plan to build more than 13,000 homes, 17.5 million square feet of commercial space and a 1,500-slip marina on the site. The partnership split in 2016 when U.S. Steel no longer was able to finance the project.

Most recently, Dublin-based Emerald Living tried its hand with a massive plan to build 20,000 homes on the site, but it also fell through, given the challenges that accompany constructing houses on a former industrial site. [Sun-Times] — Jacqueline Flynn

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