Extension of Chicago’s Lake Shore Drive Latest Step for 600-Acre Mixed-Use Development

The announcement that Chicago's Lake Shore Drive will be extended two miles south also highlighted the progress of Chicago Lakeside Development, a 600-acre mixed-use redevelopment of a former U.S. Steel South Works site.

A rendering of the Chicago Lakeside Development by McCaffery

Last week’s announcement that Chicago’s signature Lake Shore Drive will be extended two miles southward also highlighted the grand plans, and gradual progress, of Chicago Lakeside Development, a nearly 600-acre mixed-use redevelopment of the former U.S. Steel South Works site on the city’s South Side. The project’s developer is McCaffery Interests, of Chicago.

Earlier reports on the project showed the huge scope of the master plan, by Skidmore, Owings & Merrill. The firm is planning 13,575 market-rate and affordable homes housing 50,000 residents; 17.5 million square feet of retail and other commercial space; a high school; and a 1,500-slip marina, all built in phases over 30 years at an estimated cost of $4 billion.

The city approved the master plan in spring 2010 and awarded the project a $98 million tax increment financing grant for infrastructure work in September of that year.

Phase 1 of the project will include a roughly 600,000-square-foot shopping center that is currently in preleasing and should begin construction in late 2013 or early 2014, McCaffery project manager Nasutsa Mabwa told CPE. This phase will also include 1,000 units of rental housing. There are no brownfield issues, because U.S. Steel handled the necessary remediation, Mabwa said, adding that McCaffery has a no-further-remediation letter from the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency.

Given the project’s almost unprecedented size, it certainly needs ample transportation infrastructure, and the just-announced extension of Lake Shore Drive (known locally as LSD or the Outer Drive) is part of that.

The freeway-like road, which was last extended in 1957, runs almost 16 miles along Chicago’s lakefront, transitioning at its southern terminus into an ordinary surface street, South Shore Drive. The extension will “connect to and continue through” Chicago Lakeside, according to the announcement.

Other infrastructure improvements in the area are to include new street lighting, landscaped medians, upgraded landscaping at a park adjoining the site and more than 600 trees to line the LSD extension. These will be paid for under the Building a New Chicago initiative, a $7 billion, three-year infrastructure program announced by Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel on March 29.

The Lake Shore Drive extension should be completed by December, with landscaping finished the following spring, Mabwa told CPE.

The project is being touted not just for its size, but for clean, green infrastructure, which falls into five categories, Mabwa said.  For energy, the developer is exploring wind turbines (possibly offshore), solar, district energy, natural gas and biomass. The stormwater plan is expected to recharge more than 90 percent of rain water that falls at Lakeside back to Lake Michigan, rather than sending the storm water into the metro area’s combined sewer and sanitary systems, which is often over capacity. The use of lake water for cooling systems is also being explored. To avoid Lakeside’s waste bring driven to landfills, McCaffery is exploring the possibility of creating recycling and sorting facilities close to residents, as well as creating energy from waste.

Besides the LSD extension, longer-term options for Lakeside transportation might include “bus rapid transit” using a dedicated bus-only lane, a light rail system to improve access to the city’s airports, streetcars, personal rapid transit, additional bike lanes and a water taxi to downtown Chicago, about nine miles away. On the energy front, McCaffery has partnered with Cisco Systems to work on information communications technology, to include energy-monitoring systems.

Finally, though McCaffery isn’t pushing the issue right now, this being an election year, the developer “strongly wants” the Barack Obama Presidential Library at Lakeside, Mabwa said. The site is in Obama’s former Illinois Senate district and near Obama’s current Chicago home, plus, she said, “It would be cheaper to visit such a library in Chicago than Hawaii.”