After more than a year of rumors and speculation, plans for a substantial mixed-use development on a derelict corner in Chicago’s River West neighborhood are moving ahead. Developer Akara Partners breaks ground today on a 14-story development at 500 North Milwaukee Avenue. Local real estate observers are keeping a close eye on the new construction on the property for its proximity to downtown and the Chicago Transit Authority Blue Line.
Two rental buildings should be delivered to market within 13 months, the developer said, offering a combination of studios and one- and two-bedroom apartments, as well as a smattering of three-bedroom units. Given its proximity to transit, the building’s 227 residential units come with only 88 parking spaces, plus roughly a dozen more for shoppers at the building’s ground-floor retail stores.
Akara Partners enlisted architectural firm Pappageorge Haymes to design the two-building structure. “We’re going with more of an industrial aesthetic,” said Gregory Klosowski, senior project architect. They designed the building to attract 20-somethings to the edge of the Loop.
Industrial elements visible in the renderings include raw steel and exposed conduits. “The raw materials are used in an interesting and creative way, in a palette that makes it seem more rich and visually interesting,” said Brian Kidd, a senior associate at Pappageorge Haymes.
The materials palette varies between the development’s two volumes, boasting different kinds of glass on the high-rise and the low-rise closer to the street.
“We have a few different elements that get repeated throughout the project to reinforce the connection between the two buildings,” said Klosowski. Those elements include raw steel and board-formed concrete.
The architectural team said it is seeking work from local artists to help decorate the interior. The existing structure on the site once housed a restaurant supply company before its interior was damaged by fire. Pappageorge Haymes plans to salvage materials from the abandoned building, reusing tin ceilings and cast iron columns with decorative elements in the new development. Kidd said the mix of materials helps create a pedestrian experience.
“As a design team, we put a lot of effort into creating a pedestrian scale and understanding how people will interact with the building,” he said. The building will sit back from the corner, allowing for an increase in the sidewalk width to make room for a bus shelter and future renovations to adjacent CTA Blue Line station. Both buildings include ground-floor retail space.