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Related Midwest Signs Key Deal For Its $7B South Side Project

Related Midwest took another step forward today on its effort to transform a chunk of the Near South Side, vacant for nearly 100 years, into The 78, a mixed-use community with a heavy focus on research and development. The University of Illinois System’s Discovery Partners Institute signed a letter of intent to build a 500K SF research hub on land donated by Related Midwest, which announced the agreement at an on-site morning press conference with Gov. J.B. Pritzker and Mayor Lori Lightfoot.

The University of Illinois System’s Discovery Partners Institute.

The deal has more significance than a typical anchor tenant deal, as it helps prove out Related Midwest officials’ concept for The 78, which envisions its 62 acres being an economic engine for the region, creating new products and spinoff businesses, rather than a simple office park with some attached retail, residences and green space.

“DPI’s organizational model will drive long-term innovation across critical growth industries and draw corporate tenants, entrepreneurs and venture capitalists — from across Chicago and around the globe — to The 78, where they will find top talent, groundbreaking research and new technologies that support future expansion,” Related Midwest President Curt Bailey said.

Sterling Bay, the developer of Lincoln Yards on the North Side, has likewise said it plans to incubate a research-focused community. The company purchased 2430 North Halsted, formerly the Stanley Manne Children's Research Institute, a five-floor, 120K SF facility, in 2018 from Ann & Robert H. Lurie Children's Hospital, and plans to start a new life sciences community called Prysm Life Sciences that will recruit both major healthcare institutions and startups.

The 78

Related has already begun infrastructure work for the project’s first phase, including on the Wells-Wentworth Connector, a thoroughfare with bike lanes that when completed next year will sweep south across the entire site, linking the Central Business District to Chinatown.

The company also plans to complete Phase 1 on the site’s northern portion closest to downtown by 2024. Phase 1 will include DPI, another 1.5M SF of offices, 700K SF of residences, 100K SF devoted to a variety of uses such as retail, fitness and restaurants, as well as Crescent Park, 5 acres of green space  along the South Branch of the Chicago River.  

DPI will sit between Crescent Park and Wells Street. State officials say it will bring in around 2,000 student-scholars each year to work with academics and business leaders, and initially focus on data analytics and computing.

“Illinois’ nexus of partnerships, innovation hubs, public and private universities, national laboratories and international research programs is the foundation for a technology ecosystem that will rival any location in the world,” Pritzker said.