City gives nods to Reschke, Primo, AmTrust projects for Loop conversions

Prime Group in on two office-to-apartments plans pushed forward by officials

Prime Group's Michael Reschke, Amstar's Jonathan Bennett and Capri Capital Partners' Quintin Primo
Prime Group's Michael Reschke, Amstar's Jonathan Bennett and Capri Capital Partners' Quintin Primo (Illustration by Kevin Rebong for The Real Deal)

Winners of the LaSalle Street tax increment financing sweepstakes have been chosen, and Mike Reschke got two golden tickets.

Chicago officials moved forward three projects aimed at turning outdated, mostly vacant office buildings into housing that have requested a combined $188 million in city tax increment financing to assist in their development, Crain’s reported.

Reschke’s Prime Group is involved with two of them, with plans to partner with Quintin Primo on converting the former BMO Harris Bank building at 111 West Monroe Street.

Reshke also got the nod from the city to transform a five-story block of offices above the JW Marriott Hotel at 208 South LaSalle into apartments, while AmTrust RE’s empty former Bank of America building at 135 South LaSalle Street was the final property to advance.

The city narrowed down the winners after six proposals were presented at a public hearing in March. The plan is part of outgoing Mayor Lori Lightfoot’s LaSalle Street Reimagined initiative, which aims to reignite the beleaguered street that lost its vibrancy due to vacancies that were  on the rise even before the 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 in a statement.

With Lightfoot’s early dismissal from the mayoral election, though, and the runoff between Paul Vallas and Brandon Johnson slated for April 4, it’s unclear if LaSalle Street Reimagined will actually happen. It was a product of Lightfoot’s administration, and Vallas is skeptical of tax increment funds for private-sector developments, but he hasn’t closed the door on the initiative, he told the outlet.

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Johnson has expressed support of using tax increment financing for affordable housing, which he’s been an avid proponent of. Yet, he has also said the city can’t give away tax dollars to places that don’t need them, and it’s unclear how much support he would offer to any of the three proposals.

Chicago’s Community Development Commission and City Council must approve the projects before the tax increment deals are enacted to help fund the construction.

Reschke is targeting the five floors at 208 South LaSalle with a $130 million project that would yield 280 units with 84 of them deemed affordable. He is requesting $33 million in tax increment funds for that project.

For 111 West Monroe, Reschke and Primo plan to convert the upper portion of the building into a mix of 349 units, a club and a hotel. It would cost $180 million for the residential portion and $115 million for the hotel and club. The firms are seeking $40 million in tax increment financing and would build 105 affordable units in return.

AmTrust brought in John O’Donnell’s Riverside Investment & Development as a partner in converting 135 South LaSalle. Riverside helped empty the property by luring Bank of America into a lease of the developer’s newly built skyscraper 110 North Wacker Drive several years ago, and the financial giant moved into the property upon its completion, leaving AmTrust with a mostly empty building generating too little revenue to pay off its $100 million mortgage.

It’s the most ambitious of the three projects, in part because the 1.3 million-square-foot former Bank of America building is a distressed property. The partnering firms aim to build 430 total and 129 affordable units throughout 11 floors, rooftop amenities, a two-story parking garage, and a 80,000-square-foot space including new lobbies and retail.

— Quinn Donoghue

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