An ambitious plan to transform a 7-acre riverfront site at 700 W. Chicago Avenue into a mixed-use development with four high-rises will not move forward.
Chicago-based Riverside Investment & Development and joint venture partner Nexstar Media Group have reportedly given up pursuing tenants for their massive River West project, according to the Chicago Tribune.
Dubbed 700 at the River District, the four-phase development would have replaced a former Tribune distribution building with three loft-style office buildings, a 300-unit residential tower, and 4.5 acres of open space.
First unveiled in 2017, the Goettsch-designed proposal received the green light from the Chicago Plan Commission in early 2018. Its developers had originally planned to break ground on the first office tower later that year but struggled to secure the commercial tenants necessary to kickstart construction.
Riverside boss John O'Donnell told Tribune reporter Ryan Ori that although his team "came very close" to closing tenant deals over the past years, it made little sense to continue the search given the pandemic-related vacancies plaguing the office market.
"We thought looking for office tenants right now was a waste of time," O'Donnell told the newspaper. "Nobody knows what kind of space they need. Everyone's evaluating. There's so much vacancy downtown, it doesn't make sense to start a new building like that."
The 7-acre parcel is part of the larger mixed-use 'River District' megadevelopment that includes an additional 30 acres of land to the immediate south, which is currently home to the Tribune's massive Freedom Center printing plant.
The city granted Tribune Media zoning approval for up to 14 mixed-use buildings with 4,099 residential units at the River District site in late 2018. The company then put the property up for sale in early 2019. Tribune Media and its real estate assets were acquired by Nexstar later that year.
It's unclear what happens next for 700 W. Chicago Avenue (or the greater River District project, for that matter). Although the site was once floated as a possible location for the long-discussed Chicago casino, its existing 120,000-square-foot building seems more likely to become a last-mile distribution center, according to the Tribune report.
News of Riverside and Nexstar's redevelopment plan fizzling out arrives just days after Vancouver-based developer Onni Group revealed its own multiphase megaproject on nearby Goose Island.
The proposal—called Halsted Point—calls for five glassy towers to rise at the site of a Greyhound bus maintenance facility located just across the Chicago River from the 700 W. Chicago Avenue site. In fact, 700 at the River District appears in the background of several Halsted Point renderings.
Whereas 700 at the River District relied heavily on office tenants to get the project off the ground, Halsted Point will focus on building four residential towers containing a combined 2,650 apartments before starting work on its fifth-phase office building.
"We believe residential is going be much quicker to come back post-pandemic than commercial," said Onni's Brian Brodeur at Friday's virtual community meeting. "That's the reason we've phased our site the way we have, with our commercial building last."