River North rental project on the way

Plans for development win resident approval

11/02/2011 10:00 PM

Contributing Reporter

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The 43-story building proposed for 360 W. Hubbard would have a pool atop its eight-story parking garage.
Solomon Cordwell Buenz

The Habitat Co. says that it will be ready to break ground on a long-awaited luxury apartment project in River North by the end of this month.

The 43-story building, slated to be built at 360 W. Hubbard St., will contain 450 units, divided between studio, one- and two-bedroom spaces. The site will also include an eight-story parking structure that will house 400 spots for residents and 126 underground parking spaces for visitors at the adjacent East Bank Club fitness facility.

Landscaping designs for the project include significant green roof space and a “dog run” located along the south side of the building. Also included in the designs are a rooftop pool and two ground-level fountains.

Habitat tapped the Chicago-based James McHugh Construction Co. and architectural firm Solomon Cordwell Buenz to work on the development. The parcel sits across the street from Kingsbury Plaza, a similar rental development completed by Habitat and SCB in 2007. The site, at the northern corner of Kingsbury and Hubbard, has sat as a surface parking lot for over half a century.

The firm cinched zoning amendments for the Hubbard property in 2006 and 2007, but plans for the project — then about 1,000 units larger — got dragged under with the rest of the development market, said Habitat Senior VP of Development Tom Black.

“The economy was looking questionable and the cost of construction was going sky-high, through the roof,” he said.

In the wake of that slump, a number of condo projects in area, such as Walton on the Park at 2 W. Delaware Pl. and Trio at 670 W. Wayman St., took a safe turn into rental.

Though the market has seen a measurable uptick since then, Black said that the property still felt right as an apartment project.

“It seemed that condominiums were being well-saturated in the market place around the downtown loop area, and the rental market seemed to be more appropriate for this area,” he said. The planned development for the parcel — which includes the East Bank and Kingsbury Plaza properties — was approved back in the 1970s.

Construction on the development is set to start shortly due in part to the fact that the project is being built under the city’s Green Permit Program, an initiative that streamlines permitting processes for projects that incorporate sustainable building practices. Habitat expects the building to obtain a Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design Silver rating from the U.S. Green Building Council.

Habitat has also announced plans to install a small public park on a corner lot just south of the site.

Before breaking out the shovels, Habitat was asked by Ald. Brendan Reilly (42nd) to vet the plan with residents in the area.

Following a meeting with the firm, River North Residents Association President Mike Riordan said that the 360 W. Hubbard project looked like a sound fit for the mixed-use neighborhood.

“We found that the developer adequately addressed design, public safety, traffic management, construction, environmental impact, parking, lighting, streetscaping and energy conservation issues,” he said.

Riordan said that the project appeared to be a response to “the perceived rental demand and to current financing conditions that will support this kind of project.”

“Most of the largest projects that are currently in play in the area are rental properties,” he said. “It’s the cycle that we find ourselves in.”

Lana Berkovich, the resident group’s development chair, added that the increased density that comes with projects like the Hubbard development isn’t necessarily objectionable among River North residents, as long as ensuing issues such as traffic and green space are taken care of ahead of time.

“If properly managed, [increased density] can add to the vibrancy of a neighborhood, e.g. by encouraging street level retail and bringing in amenities like the recently completed playground in Ward Park,” Berkovich wrote in an email.

As a company that deals in all levels of residential development — Habitat’s portfolio contains thousands of affordable and public housing units throughout Chicago, and until recently it served as the receiver for the Chicago Housing Authority’s scattered site program — Black said that resident satisfaction was the one constant in Habitat’s projects.

“Each one is a goal to achieve the best community for them to live in,” he said.

Black said that the 360 W. Hubbard development is slated for completion in fall 2013.

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