A proposal from Crescent Heights to redevelop a parking lot at 640 W. Washington Boulevard into a 515-foot-tall apartment tower passed the Chicago Plan Commission on Thursday. The downtown project will bring 413 luxury rental units to the West Loop Gate, located between the Chicago River and the Kennedy Expressway.
Designed by Chicago-based Hartshorne Plunkard Architecture, the slender tower will rise on the western edge of the site. A low-rise portion to the east will contain 20,000 square feet of amenities, 8,000 square feet of retail, and off-street parking for 137 vehicles and 217 bicycles. There will also be a porte-cochere below the building to move loading and standing traffic off surrounding streets such as Des Plaines.
The dark masonry and glass design draws influences from the historic West Loop buildings on the other side of the highway as well as the contemporary high-rises to the east. The result is a "modern high-rise with a warm warehouse feel," according to HPA architect Megan Zack at a virtual public meeting this spring.
The development's 413 apartments will be offered in studio, one-, and two-bedroom floorplans averaging between 650 and 700 square feet in size. Pricing will be "in line with other Class A buildings in this submarket," according to Crescent Heights's Jason Buchberg, who estimates rents reaching the high $3 per square foot range.
Under the city's current affordable housing rules, Crescent Heights is required to provide 10 percent affordable housing, which rounds up to 42 apartments. The developer will provide 11 of those units on-site and pay roughly $5.8 million to the city's Affordable Housing Opportunity Fund, according to a zoning application filed in January. The project will also contribute $3.7 million to the Neighborhood Opportunity Fund in exchange for a density bonus.
The requested zoning change for the project—from DX-7 to a Residential Planned Development—will also need the support of the Committee on Zoning and the full City Council. If approvals move forward as planned, it's unclear when exactly the developer intends to break ground at 640 W. Washington.
"We are in a fluid economic climate," said Buchberg at the Neighbors of the West Loop community meeting. "The intent here is to secure the entitlements and to break ground when it actually makes sense. We've eyed the site for quite a while and we've closed on the site, so we have every intention of moving forward with the project at the right time."
Crescent Heights is a national developer with a growing footprint in many major cities including Los Angeles. In Chicago, the company recently completed the 76-story, 800-unit NEMA Chicago apartment tower in the South Loop. Crescent Heights has plans for a second, taller "phase two" skyscraper next door, but is prioritizing the 640 Washington site for the time being.
"We already have a large asset in the [South Loop] and [the West Loop] is a submarket that we've always wanted to be active in, so the focus is here," added Buchberg. "Certainly if the market improves we can do both at the same time, but we've shifted the development team's focus to this project at this time."