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Tribune Unveils Massive Redevelopment Plans For Freedom Center Site

Chicago Land
An aerial rendering of the Tribune's Freedom Center redevelopment, looking east.

Tribune Media on Wednesday announced plans for a massive redevelopment of its 30-acre Freedom Center printing plant site in River West, the Chicago Tribune reports.

Dubbed The River District, the site, which was rumored to be a possible redevelopment play for months, calls for 9M SF of mixed-use and incorporates the Tribune and Riverside Investment and Development's plans for 700 West Chicago Ave. to the north. It was officially submitted to the city as an option for Chicago's bid for Amazon HQ2.

Tribune Media is also looking to make the River District the heart of Chicago's Tech Triangle, connecting the booming tech sectors in Fulton Market, River North and Goose Island. Pending city approval, the first phase of the redevelopment will occur on the site's southern end: 18 acres of shovel-ready land that can accommodate 5.5M SF, starting in 2020. The remaining land would be redeveloped based on market demand and accommodate an additional 3.7M SF. 

Tribune Media promised 25% of the project will be dedicated to public use. Plans include 5.1 acres of riverfront improvements of publicly accessible pedestrian river walk, infrastructure to leverage bike path connections, a public park, associated pocket parks and sitewide landscaping. 

The biggest question mark regarding the redevelopment is what will happen with the printing plant. Tronc, the company that owns the Chicago Tribune, has a lease on the site until 2023, with two 10-year extension options, and no plans to relocate the facility. 

A rendering of the Tribune's Freedom Center redevelopment, seen from Grand Avenue.

NKF Executive Managing Director Geoff Kasselman told Bisnow last month the Freedom Center is the strongest contender among several large contiguous sites for Amazon's HQ2 because of the relaxed zoning changes along the North Branch Industrial Corridor and the site's ability to connect River North and downtown to several neighborhoods to the north and west.

Tribune plans to build 15 residential and office towers with street-level retail, ranging from 20 stories to 50 stories. The redevelopment is capable of supporting 19,000 jobs and 5,900 new residential units. The Freedom Center joins Sterling Bay's Lincoln Yards in vying for Amazon HQ2. Last week, Mayor Rahm Emanuel touted the Old Main Post Office redevelopment as another option, but The Telos Group President Brian Whiting said the site will be off the board once it commits to leases with tenants.