MAKING WAY FOR “THE 78”: The largest single development in Chicago’s History.

June 8th, 2018 by: relatedchicago

The development was the topic of a formal community meeting this month, where developer Related Midwest and architectural master planner Skidmore, Owings & Merrill, presented new details of their plan to transform the vacant riverfront parcel between the South Loop and Chinatown, into an historic, mixed-use, 24 hour neighborhood.

MAKING WAY FOR “THE 78” - Chicago Development

Image courtesy of Related Midwest

One of the first questions came from a local resident, curious about the origin of the developments name, The 78. It is the brainchild of Related’s marketing team, and is based on the simple fact that Chicago has 77 recognized neighborhoods. Now, with The 78, that increases by one. At first, it was meant to be temporary, but there has been a lot of love for the name, so it will keep.

All Roads Lead to The 78

The first order of business, is to improve access, by building three new roads. Planning is designed to improve traffic patterns not only for The 78, but for existing business and residents, currently cut off from the downtown and river areas.

The 78 in Chicago - picture of land before construction

At 62 acres, The 78 is one of the largest undeveloped parcels in the entire city. Mark Segal

  • Road #1: Starting with the Wells-Wentworth Connector, already under construction. The new road will connect Wells Streets South Loop dead-end to Chinatown’s Wentworth Avenue.
  • Road #2 15th Street will be extended from Clark to a new stretch of Wells, in order to connect the site from the Dearborn Park development to the east.
  • Road #3 East of the Wells-Wentworth extension, Related proposes a second north-south road, a new “LaSalle Street” running from the elevated Roosevelt Road down to the new 15th Street extension.

The Metra.

Related’s bold solution for addressing the challenge of the Metra tracks, which run along the eastern edge, is to move the tracks away from Clark street, which is currently only accessible by auto. It will be reimagined into a walkable, urban paradise. The relocated Metra tracks will be decked over, which allows for a more cohesive, aestically pleasing space, with the added benefit of improved air quality and reduced noise.

Additionally, in order to fill the mile long gap in service between Roosevelt and Cermak-Chinatown stops, a CTA Red Line station is also under consideration.

MAKING WAY FOR “THE 78” - people walking through Chicago - rendering

Looking north from The 78’s half-mile riverwalk. Rendering by DBOX, master plan architect SOM

The River.

Related’s relationship to the river is of utmost importance and The 78 takes it to another level. The seven-acre crescent shaped park, will lay credence to the path the river originally followed before it was straightened in the 1920s. As well, a number of “open space threads” will cut in and around, and in some cases through, the buildings.

A half-mile long riverwalk will be dedicated to outdoor restaurants, and waterside gazing. The riverwalk will stretch for five acres and have lanes, similar to Chicago’s Downtown Riverwalk, dedicated for outdoor dining, jogging and biking. Building heights will be designed to lessen as they approach the river, giving us humans expansive views gazing at the sky. A future water taxi stop is also planned.

The 78's riverwalk looking south - Chicago Development The 78

The 78’s riverwalk, looking south. Rendering by ICON, master planning by SOM, architectural contributions from Hollwich Kushner

A 24 Hour Neighborhood.

Although the final design and orientation of the buildings is not complete, the development will boast an impressive 13 million square feet of mixed use space, with a zoning designation of DX-5. This designation is due to the abundance of open space and a plan that keeps the tallest towers thin and narrow, only 950 feet at their tallest.

The 78 in Chicago's Crescent Park - Rendering by ICON

The 78’s so-called “Crescent Park.” Rendering by ICON, master planning by SOM, architectural contributions from ASGG and SOM.

Landing a corporate tenant is key of course and vital to the success of the development. Related is committed to attracting companies first and residents and hotels second. The 78’s partner, Discovery Partners Institute, a cutting edge, innovation & technology center from the University of Illinois, plans to work side by side with the future corporate tenants.

The Feather in its Cap.

It is no secret that The 78 is eyeing Amazon’s prized HQ2 second headquarters. It is one of ten locations with an official bid. Amazon is scheduled to announce the winning bid for HQ2 in 2018.

Bailey confirmed as much, saying, “The request for proposal calls for 8 million square feet. Our site has 13 million square feet so you do the math.“


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