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Fulton Market North Of Lake Street Could Soon Be A Dense Residential Neighborhood

The clouds have lifted from the downtown apartment market after nearly a year of pessimism. The emptying out of the Central Business District during the coronavirus pandemic led many observers to doubt downtown submarkets would still hold the same appeal for apartment dwellers, but with vaccines now available, office users are plotting returns.

That progress may be pushing builders to prepare for another round of development. Although zoning applications for new office space in or near downtown are still rare, all signs point to a growing confidence among developers that people will continue to demand new apartments.

Developers filed zoning applications in just the past few months that, if approved by city planners and city council, would mean thousands of new units in an arc from River North to the Near West Side, according to Crain’s Chicago Business.

LG Development's plan for 210 North Aberdeen St.

That would help reverse last year’s apartment construction slowdown. Apartment units underway in Chicago now total about 11,000 units, according to market data from RealPage Analytics, down from its 2017 peak of 18,000.

The northern portion of Fulton Market is expected to get a hefty share of the planned apartments. The area was off-limits to apartment developers, as 27th Ward Alderman Walter Burnett had used his aldermanic veto to block new residential projects in the Fulton district north of Lake Street. 

Burnett said adding thousands of residents would threaten its remaining manufacturing jobs, as apartment dwellers usually don't want to live next to industrial operations. Last May, he reversed that position. He said new apartment construction would boost the economy and create much-needed affordable housing as developers would have to reserve 20% of the new units for low- to moderate-income residents.

There wasn’t much interest from developers while Covid-19 had much of the economy shuttered, but this spring has seen a flood of proposals that would reshape a few square blocks and transform it into a new residential neighborhood.

210 North Aberdeen St.  Fulton Market was by far the Chicago region's hottest office submarket before the pandemic, as well as a popular site for new boutique hotels, but Covid-19 has led to a shift. LG Development for years had been proposing new office space for its site at 210 North Aberdeen St., but during a May 24 community meeting held on Zoom and hosted by Burnett and West Loop Community Organization, the development team unveiled a proposal for an L-shaped, 19-story apartment tower with 414 units. 

It’s a big change from 2019, when the developer proposed constructing a pair of towers, one for offices and another that would be a hotel. The company later changed that to an all-office plan, Acosta Ezgur partner Michael Ezgur, the team’s zoning attorney, said during the virtual meeting.

“This switch was made to residential during Covid when realizing that, office and hotel, those were things that were going to be difficult to get done,” he said.

Burnett said during the meeting that the city may help LG Development boost the affordable housing portion from 20% to 30%. The new plan still needs to win approval from city planning officials and then the full city council. 

1150 North Lake St. — This isn’t the first time this year LG Development switched directions on a Fulton Market project. In April, the company announced it had canceled plans for an 11-story office building at 1150 North Lake St. and instead wants to build a 20-story apartment tower with 179 units, according to Block Club Chicago, citing LG Development’s zoning application. 

1112 West Carroll St.  Trammell Crow is also preparing to take advantage of Burnett’s decision to allow more new apartments. The Dallas-based company just filed a zoning application to build a 33-story apartment tower with 378 units at 1112 West Carroll St., currently occupied by a Ryder Truck Rental, according to Urbanize Chicago. The company will also be required to reserve 20% of the apartments as affordable housing.

In addition, the developer is showing some confidence that the local office market will also come back to life. It proposed in the same zoning application to construct a 26-story, 650K SF office tower at 315 North May St., just south of the Ryder lot.

Trammell Crow is already one of the neighborhood’s most active developers. It completed West End on Fulton, a 315K SF office tower at 1375 West Fulton Market, in July. Last year it launched Fulton Labs, a 405K SF complex at 400 North Aberdeen St. that company officials say will become one of the hubs for Chicago’s growing life sciences industry.

Fulton Street Cos.' plan for 1201 West Fulton Market

1201 West Fulton Market — Chicago-based Fulton Street Cos. has specialized in mixed office and retail projects in the Fulton Market area, such as 1100 West Fulton St., but it also now sees an opportunity for new apartments north of Lake Street. During a May 12 virtual community meeting with Burnett and West Loop Community Organization, it proposed replacing Revel Fulton Market, a 30K SF former warehouse at 1201 West Fulton Market converted into an event space, with a 433-unit apartment building. The developer will fulfill the 20% affordable requirement with both on-site and off-site units, according to Urbanize Chicago. Fulton Street Cos. officials also said the design is a work in progress and could undergo small changes. Last fall, Fulton Street Cos. was part of a joint venture that paid $20M for the site, a deal first reported by Crain’s Chicago Business.

160 North Elizabeth St. — Apartment developers in Fulton Market are not focusing all of their attention north of Lake Street. Developer Moceri + Roszak secured approval in March from the Chicago Plan Commission for a 375-unit, 27-story high-rise at 160 North Elizabeth St., according to Urbanize Chicago. Moceri + Roszak plans to meet the 20% affordable requirement with on-site units. The project still needs a green light from the city council.