The 78 developer Related Midwest goes dark after losing Chicago casino bid

Developer of The 78 provides no hint of whether its plans will be seriously set back

Related's Don Biernacki with rendering of the 78 (Related Midwest)
Related's Don Biernacki with rendering of the 78 (Related Midwest)

For one of Chicago’s losing casino bidders, it’s game over – at least for now.

Related Midwest’s proposal to add a casino and entertainment complex to a 62-acre site dubbed The 78 lost out to Bally’s. Now, Related doesn’t want to talk about its development after Mayor Lori Lightfoot chose one of two remaining rivals instead.

“At this time, we are taking a break from conversations with media on The 78,” a Related Midwest spokeswoman told The Real Deal on Friday. Landmark, the other losing finalist, didn’t respond to a request for comment. Its plans have been more uncertain than Related Midwest’s because it still needs billions of dollars of state funding to finance its One Central development near Soldier Field.

Without a casino, The 78 – which draws its name from Related Midwest’s ambition to create Chicago’s 78th official neighborhood bridging the South Loop and Chinatown – may need another major overhaul. It was already altered after the pandemic diminished demand for commercial workplaces and to make way for the casino bid, which would have anchored the north end of the 62-acre property. Both The 78 and Landmark’s $20 billion One Central plan near Soldier Field were designed to include a casino.

Prior to entering the casino race, Related Midwest had aimed for a project that would serve as a corporate anchor. The company’s Don Biernacki said in an interview earlier this year that the casino would be a “tremendous catalyst for the future development,” potentially leading to 15 years of projects.”

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Most recently, Related Midwest planned to build 13 million square feet of offices, shops, hotels and fitness centers, including a $250 million University of Illinois project, dubbed the Discovery Partners Institute, featuring research facilities and classrooms on the south end of the site. The company transferred title to the property that the school is targeting to the university earlier this year.

University of Illinois representatives were unable to comment. The university had been apprehensive about having an academic facility near a casino, and changed course after exploring several spots within the riverside development site.

The 78 was also geared to include thousands of homes, a fifth of them designated as affordable. Related Midwest expected that $7 billion would be invested into the project, including improvements to public transit. It’s unclear how or whether those plans will shift without the casino in play.

Mayor Lightfoot gave the official nod to Bally’s casino proposal on Thursday, giving it the right to redevelop the Tribune Media printing facility in River West into a $1.7 billion entertainment complex. It still needs the approval of the City Council, a contentious process because some aldermen and residents opposed the River West location.

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