Tribune Media Unveils Chicago River District Master Plan

The redevelopment plan by the firm's subsidiary Tribune Real Estate Holdings calls for the conversion of 37 acres of underused industrial land into a dynamic neighborhood that could accommodate 19,000 jobs and 5,900 residential units.

Tribune Media Co. subsidiary Tribune Real Estate Holdings has filed a planned development application with the city of Chicago to transform 37 acres, including its Freedom Center building at 777 W. Chicago Ave., into a dynamic riverfront development. Tribune Media, in partnership with Riverside Investment & Development, also recently filed a plan to redevelop its neighboring site at 700 W. Chicago Ave. A developer has not yet been selected for the project.

Designed by local architecture firm Solomon Cordwell Buenz, the development site is along the North Branch of the Chicago River. The redevelopment of 700 and 777 will be named The River District, billed as a “landmark, urban, tech-centric neighborhood that will reflect how people wan tot live and work,” according to Tribune Media’s release. The project will connect The Loop, River North, Fulton Market and River West.

The development models Mayo Emanuel’s North Branch Framework vision, which is “to unlock growth by creating and connecting vibrant sustainable neighborhoods, and attracting and retaining new jobs and talent,” said Murray McQueen, president of Tribune Real Estate Holdings, in the release.

To contribute to Chicago’s goal of being a hub for innovation and technology, The River District will be the center of the city’s “Tech Triangle,” which includes the Merchandise Mart and 600 W. Chicago (the Montgomery Ward Building) to the east, the UI Labs on Goose Island, and the Google headquarters in the West Loop.

The current plan for 777 includes some 9 million square feet of mixed-use development rights to accommodate more than 19,000 jobs and 5,900 residential units. Some 18,000 construction jobs will also be created to build the site and $1.1 billion in municipal tax benefit to the city will be generated by the project over the next 20 years.

Other benefits of the site include:

  • Public green space: More than 12 acres of The River District will be dedicated to public use, including 5.1 acres of riverfront improvements, a public park, several pocket parks to connect the buildings and streetscapes, and site-wide landscaping.
  • Walking paths: The site will feature more than half a mile of continuous, publicly accessible pedestrian paths along the river, as part of the Riverwalk expansion.
  • Biking paths: Pedestrian and bike paths will provide connections to surrounding neighborhoods. Several Divvy bike-share stations will also be available.
  • Infrastructure enhancements: A major arterial boulevard will be built with signalized intersections to link Grand to Chicago and extend the city grid at Ancona and Superior. Viaduct construction will connect Halsted and Chicago. Site-wide utility upgrades will include a storm water management system and access to high-speed fiber.

Pending city approval, the first phase of the redevelopment of 777 will occur on 18 acres at the site’s southern end, which could support 5.5 million square feet by the beginning of 2020. The second phase will include redeveloping 12 acres, depending on market demand, which could include an additional 3.7 million square feet. 

All renderings by Solomon Coldwell Buenz