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Hines Takes A Step Toward Developing Chicago's First Mass Timber Tower

T3 Goose Island

It's been a long time coming, but a modern mass timber office building may be on the verge of rising on Chicago's Goose Island. Houston-based Hines just hired Stream Realty Partners to start hunting for tenants to occupy T3 Goose Island, a six-story, 270K SF office building the developer first proposed for the 1000 block of West Division Street in 2017.

Hines has already developed similar versions of the T3, short for timber, transit and technology, in other cities, including Minneapolis and Atlanta. It may seem unusual to use wood rather than steel and concrete to construct sleek new towers, but the material is increasingly seen by many tenants, especially creative and high-tech firms, as more environmentally friendly.

Amazon took about half the space in Hines' T3 in Minneapolis.

But Hines and Stream officials say wood towers are becoming more broadly accepted, especially as more companies, including traditional office users in the Loop, now consider how well particular buildings promote health and wellness, as well as environmental sustainability, before making leasing decisions. 

"Mass timber is not going to replace high-rise office buildings, but it is sustainable construction, and there will be more demand for this," Hines Managing Director Brian Atkinson said.

"We think that companies that want to give back, in a sense, and be environmentally conscious are going to take a look at a building like T3," Stream Realty Partners Senior Vice President Jessica O’Hara said. 

The coronavirus pandemic's impact could further bolster interest in T3, Atkinson said. More office users now want buildings that can provide more fresh air and outdoor spaces, and T3 will have outdoor balconies on every floor.

"That's a really important part of our whole design thesis," he said. 

Atkinson said Hines officials haven't determined how much of the space needs to be taken before they greenlight the six-story project. The final decision could depend on how creditworthy prospective tenants are, or on their growth potential. 

"We have great flexibility in our capital structure," he said.

If Hines is successful, it will still take time for Chicago to catch up to other cities when it comes to constructing mass timber skyscrapers. Milwaukee approved in 2020 the construction of Ascent, a 283-foot apartment building that will be the world’s tallest mass timber building.