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Old October 1st, 2005, 12:06 AM   #21
spyguy
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Sale near for South Loop project site
Development stalled amid O'Hare scandal

By Thomas A. Corfman
Tribune staff reporter
Published September 30, 2005

A European conglomerate headed by a controversial Iraqi-born billionaire is close to buying a 62-acre South Loop site whose owners include developer Daniel Mahru and prominent Democratic fundraiser Antoin "Tony" Rezko.

About 4,600 residential units and 670,000 square feet of retailing have been proposed for the site at Roosevelt Road and Clark Street.

But it has been stalled after Chicago officials found that a Rezko-owned company improperly operated Panda Express restaurants at O'Hare International Airport that were supposed to be controlled by a minority-owned firm under the city's set-aside program.

The sale could set the stage for the development, called Riverside Park, to move forward again.

The buyer is General Mediterranean Holding SA, whose chairman and chief executive is Nadhmi Auchi, sources said.

Auchi is a British businessman who in 2003 was convicted in a French court in connection with an oil company kickback scheme. Auchi, fined more than $1 million, filed an appeal of the case, according to published reports. The status of the appeal could not be determined.

That same year, the U.S.-led Coalition Provisional Authority in Iraq awarded a cellular phone service contract to Orascom Telecom Holding SAE, an Egyptian company in which Auchi has a stake. U.S. officials are investigating allegations of impropriety and Auchi's role in the bid process. Orascom and Auchi have denied any wrongdoing.

General Mediterranean Holding is based in Luxembourg, with offices in London, and has business interests in banking, hotels, construction and real estate.

A company spokesman said he was unaware of the Chicago transaction. In an e-mail message, Charles Panayides said General Mediterranean "has always sought to make investments predicated on the principle that they not only bring GMH a fair return but effectively and transparently contribute to the well-being of the people of the host countries."

Rezko is chairman and Mahru is chief executive of Chicago development firm Rezmar Corp. A spokesman for the company declined to comment.

Rezko, a Syrian immigrant, has significant business holdings aside from Rezmar, including a restaurant company that operates fast-food franchises. The controversial Panda Express restaurant contracts were canceled in July.

Three years ago, a Rezmar partnership acquired the site, paying $67 million.

In 2003, Ikea dropped plans to be the anchor retailer for the project, a sharp setback for Rezmar. Instead, Ikea opted for a Bolingbrook location, where it just opened its second Chicago-area store.

Rezmar had been seeking a tax increment financing grant of up to $140 million from the Daley administration.

Discouraged about prospects of winning the subsidy, Mahru has been urging Rezko to sell the project for several months, sources said. But Rezko apparently believed that the City Hall logjam would eventually be broken.

The project has been a financial drain. Earlier this year, Rezmar's principals used money from General Mediterranean to pay off a lender on the project, New York investment bank Lehman Brothers, sources said.

The sale of the South Loop site to General Mediterranean is expected to be completed in stages, but would leave Rezko and Mahru without any ownership interest, sources said. Mahru may stay on as a consultant, sources said.
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Old October 2nd, 2005, 05:13 AM   #22
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A few months back I signalled storm warning signs for this Rezmar development. The above story has its own dark clouds gathering, but I feel more optimistic that something will eventually develop on that large riverside site.
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Old January 5th, 2006, 05:54 PM   #23
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Finding the frontier
•Grapefruits and graffiti, down by the river

By MAX BROOKS, Staff Writer

Between Chinatown and the South Loop, an urban vacuum of weeds and graffiti dominates the view from the el. Photo by Josh Hawkins.




In 1991, precocious 18-year-old graffiti writer and hip-hop journalist William "Upski" Wimsatt sketched out an electric, crackling tour of the undeveloped swath of land stretching from Chinatown to Roosevelt Road—the largest vacant plot near downtown Chicago. The essay, titled "The Urban Frontier," was included three years later in his seminal first book, Bomb the Suburbs. If you were a Chicago kid in the mid-1990s and you weren’t reading this book, I’m told, you weren’t cool.


Fifteen years later, much of the frontier, created during a straightening of the Chicago River in the 1930s, is still vacant. There are plans for 63 acres of condos, boutiques, and more condos, known as Riverside Park, but problems with the Rezmar development team pitching the project have scuttled the effort for the time being. I thought it would be a good time to take stock of what still remains in this strange pocket of the South Loop, close enough to downtown to hit it with a well-thrown rock.


At the western end of the frontier near the edge of the Chicago River, the 16th Street train bridge rises forlornly into the sky, a much more haunting sculptural testament to Chicago’s coal-covered past than the iron horse Picasso. To the east, there are the Rock Island Metra tracks, the Red Line, and Clark Street. The southern border is a little less clear, but at the time of Upski’s writing, it stood, more or less, at Archer Avenue.


For Upski, though, the frontier was more a state of mind than a fixed geographical place.


"The frontier is the kind of place you’d expect to stumble on the planet’s umbilical cord … Entire chain-link fences, chunks of buildings, and
telephone poles lay strewn about as in the wake of disaster." It’s a place, he writes later, where "they don’t take Mastercard and they don’t take American Express."


The essay is organized as a tour, delivered in the voice of a circus-ring huckster, and I decided the best way to examine how the land has changed over the last decade and a half would be to go along for the ride.


"The next tour begins in five minutes," Upski writes. "The greatest opportunities in the world to explore the unknown, meet amazing people, and become cosmopolitan cost only a CTA token."


Last week, I dutifully dismounted the Red Line at the Cermak/Chinatown stop, turned right at the miniature pagoda on Wentworth Avenue, walked past a parking lot, and soon made my way across Archer Avenue.


I held a copy of the book in front of my eyes: "As you cross Archer Avenue, you have already entered the ghost city: If you see people on this street, your drinking problem is serious."


But I hadn’t had a drop to drink for a good 12 hours, and people were everywhere: walking on the sidewalk, driving slowly in German imports, giving me the once-over. The southern tip of Upski’s chaotic frontier, as it turns out, has given way to something much more tame, as he feared it would; the 1990s-era Chinatown Square, with cookie-cutter town homes and condos connected by alleyways broad enough for two Escalades to pass one another quietly in the night and concrete walkways that run in cute squiggles instead of straight lines:


As I approached 19th and Wentworth, now an informal parking lot for Chinatown shoppers, a woman in a maroon Passat rolled down her passenger-side window.


"Are you getting out?" she asked, hoping to get my parking space.


"No," I said.


She looked at me quizzically, as if to say "then where the hell are you going?" and found a space a few spots up. I waved nonchalantly as I passed. Crossing 18th Street, I closed in on what rightly could be considered the remaining frontier. There, Wentworth Avenue turns to dirt and then dead-ends. An improvised, diamond-shaped soccer and softball field is stamped out of the tall, snarled grass and mud to the left, but within 50 yards or so, I cleared that as well. As if on cue, I soon saw tumbleweed rolling desolately across the mess of mud and prairie grass. At the Metra tracks near 16th Street, I spotted a unmanned yellow Metra truck. I’d left civilization altogether, without passing so much as a "No Trespassing" sign.


Still, as I stepped over the railroad ties, I got the eerie feeling that I’d clearly crossed over to the wrong side of the tracks. The trees were short and sickly, and some bits of tarp and wet blanket around a fire ring indicated that I’d likely stepped into someone else’s home, even if no one was there.


Below the Metra tracks, there was a relatively dry gravel road that allowed me to proceed north unperturbed, visible only to curious condo owners living along Clark and keen-eyed dog walkers on Roosevelt. I hadn’t been on the road very long when I felt the sense of adventure Upski wrote about—the chance to meet fellow travelers, kindred lost souls, and dangerous encounters. Ahead, beside a potato-sticks-looking pile of old, tarred railroad ties, black smoke rose from a campfire burning unwatched, surrounded by a ring of uneaten grapefruits. I looked cautiously for the fire keepers, aware that they might not take kindly to an interloper poking around, but there was no one there.


One hundred yards or so beyond 16th Street, the land flattened out and turned to carefully graded dirt, signs of preparation for Riverside Park. Nearby, two helmet-clad engineers were taking sight lines. I waved, hoping they wouldn’t call the police, and the man by the tripod waved back. I decided to approach.


The other engineer claimed the first one knew as much as anyone about the frontier. I asked if they’d noticed the campfire.


They had: "Yeah. We were thinking of stringing up some chickens, or maybe a coyote," the shorter one said, mostly kidding.


Did anybody live on the frontier, I asked?


He pointed me in the direction of "the condo," an impressive construction of chain-link fences and blue and black tarp near the Roosevelt Street overpass and the Metra tracks. No one was home when I got up the courage to visit a few days later, but I estimated it to be about 300-square-feet in total, significantly larger than your average room in a transient hotel.


The engineer then gestured to the railroad bridge for the St. Charles Line, and said I might run into someone there wearing the same coat they had on, a parka with the logo of his engineering company. They’d given it to the man who was there a year ago on a cold Christmas Eve.


I asked if any of the squatters were dangerous.


"No," the same engineer said. But as he gave me directions to the paved path running along the frontier’s west end, he soberly cautioned me about a wild coyote he’d seen there several times. As I headed off, he waved goodbye.


"Good luck," he said cheerfully. "If not, we’ll find you next week."


I headed west to get a glimpse of the condo, but, for the time being, I thought better of approaching alone and perhaps surprising its tenant. Upski wrote about one frontier homesteader, a man named Shane, who pulled a knife on him when taken unawares, and though Upski came out of the scrape all right and got to know Shane better, I didn’t want to rush into things.


As I passed the condo and approached the Metra track, I was amazed that I still hadn’t been warned off by a railroad company thickneck. At the same time, I became acutely aware that the book I was holding in my hands had "bomb" splashed across it in big letters. If the wrong cop, FBI agent or Department of Homeland Security officer did find me out there, they might not realize that the "Bomb" in the title was a slang term for graffiti writing. I quickly stuffed the book in my backpack.


After doubling back and walking along a concrete walkway that runs near the river for a good way, I reached the next major point of interest: the daunting, upraised rail bridge crossing the Chicago River near 18th Street. Intrepid graffiti writers have managed to leave their mark on the very top of the scaffolding, though climbing it was not a feat I dared attempt. Instead, I passed under the bridge along the bank—two more tarp encampments stood nearby—and walked by a metal canoe that someone had stashed there for summer recreation.


As I crossed under the tracks again, I was met by a splash of color. There were literally hundreds of spent aerosol cans and paint buckets there, alongside the other offal graffiti writers leave behind. Surprisingly, plastic bottles of grape, orange, and fruit punch soda outnumbered beer bottles 10 to 1. On the pylons, intricate graffiti pieces, up to 30 feet across, covered the concrete, mostly free of the simple tags and throw-ups that mar many storefronts. Even the most hardened, graffiti-hating neighborhood advocate would have to admit their ingenuity.


On the westernmost pylon, I spotted a well-painted skull with colorful bubbles trailing behind it, marked by a haunting slogan: "Writers never die." Standing there, you could almost believe it. In Bomb the Suburbs, Upski quotes a fellow graffiti writer saying when he was in the frontier, he always felt like other graffiti writers were going to jump out from one of its wall and surround him. Though I’ve probably never been as far away from other people since moving to the city, I felt the same way, oddly crowded. There’s a physical symptom for this feeling: the goose bumps.


From the pylons, it’s a quick jaunt back to the frontier’s entrance. As I emerged back into civilization where I left it near 18th Street, a group of men playing soccer looked at me as if I’d crawled out of a crypt. It didn’t help that my white Keds were caked in a comical amount of mud.


I hadn’t done a whole lot—just kicked around for a couple hours, really, running into engineers instead of urban homesteaders. But the remnants of the frontier—the campsite, the graffiti walls, the upraised bridge—were still exhilarating to visit, in a way that Riverside Park, or whatever replaces it, will likely not be.


"You haven’t even gotten to the frontier yet, and already it’s shrinking," Upski wrote sullenly at the beginning of his tour, referencing the now-completed plans for the northern extension of Chinatown. As I made my way back to Wentworth Avenue, I briefly felt the same heaviness.


But perhaps this was a little silly. People moving back into the heart of the city, after all, is a good thing.


And, as Upski notes, there are other frontiers in Chicago. A frontier, he writes, can be anywhere that "train tracks, water, factories, parks, rooftops—or just plain neglect—conspire to create secret places in the city." For instance, the view out of a Green Line train, over the sooty factory tops and neglected boulevards of the West Side, suggests there’s more adventure to be had by intrepid youngsters who grow up long after the South Loop "frontier" is developed. They’ll only have to follow the old frontiersman’s credo: Go west, young man.
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Old May 28th, 2006, 01:37 AM   #24
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Old May 28th, 2006, 03:57 AM   #25
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^ Sounds like the Block 37 story.

Sheesh!
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Old May 28th, 2006, 07:05 AM   #26
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Please correct me if Im wrong but I thought this was the devolopment that just went before city council quite recently and got approved...right or is this different?...the one with the 30 or 40 story highrise and then condo townhomes with a park area and then they also agreed to devolop the river area into a park ..?
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Old May 28th, 2006, 09:33 AM   #27
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No, I believe that project is north of Roosevelt Road. South of Roosevelt is a much more overgrown, woodsy area.

I dunno - there are so many good uses for such a central site that don't involve townhouses or condos. A small airport might work here, as would the sports stadium mentioned earlier.

If Daley wants a huge Olympic stadium, what better place to put it than here? It's relatively central, proximate to the athletic facilities at UIC as well as Soldier Field and the lake. The fact that development won't go through just makes it more attractive for a civil project. The only downside is a lack of transit in this area, but that can be remedied.

EDIT - Apparently there is transit around there. The Red Line has no stops between Roosevelt and Cermak/Chinatown, and the subway runs through the SE corner of the parcel.

Last edited by ardecila; May 28th, 2006 at 09:51 AM.
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Old September 4th, 2007, 11:55 PM   #28
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Does anyone have any update on what is planned for the Riverside site
south west of Roosevelt and Clark?

I have searched on the internet, but could not find any recent info beyond mid-2006, when Heritage was looking for a buyer of the northern part of the lot.
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Old September 5th, 2007, 05:34 AM   #29
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There aren't any updates. Much of the property is owned by Mediterranean Holdings, IIRC, and they're doing nothing with the land while the corruption investigations run their course, on both sides of the Atlantic.
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Old September 5th, 2007, 06:30 PM   #30
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Quote:
Originally Posted by ardecila View Post
There aren't any updates. Much of the property is owned by Mediterranean Holdings, IIRC, and they're doing nothing with the land while the corruption investigations run their course, on both sides of the Atlantic.
thank you! Interesting that such large, prime real estate is not developed.
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Old September 5th, 2007, 07:05 PM   #31
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The property has no access and no infrastructure. Whoever develops it will have big upfront costs, and can't do it a little at a time.
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Old September 6th, 2007, 02:37 AM   #32
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^ The logistics of this location are a nightmare. The townhomes just to the east of it, the tracks, the metra shit across the river, no other access points unless eminent domain or something is used to build at least one more street east-west, with a new bridge across the river. Plus, things like this take years if not decades to materialize in this town due to corruption and BS. How can all these massive develpoments continue to spurt up with a wreck of a PT system that we have? There are just too many problems at the moment for this to materialize anytime soon. A couple years before the olympics would be my best hope for this to start going in a clear, positive direction of development.
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Old February 14th, 2008, 10:13 PM   #33
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British tycoon remains bullish on Chicago development

Auchi: Riverside Park project to create 10,000 new construction, retail and commercial jobs; it is a win-win for Chicago.

CHICAGO - One of Britain’s most successful businessmen says he remains bullish on investing in the American economy and wants to complete a proposed $2-billion real estate development near downtown Chicago.

Nadhmi Auchi, ranked by Forbes as one of the world’s wealthiest men with a reported net worth of $3.1 billion, looks forward to developing a 62-acre parcel just west of Chicago's "Loop" near downtown as part of a signature project, Riverside Park, that would include residential, retail, and commercial space.

http://www.middle-east-online.com/english/?id=24332
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Old February 15th, 2008, 01:07 AM   #34
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Interesting read. I've never seen the whole story laid out in one place before.

Unfortunately, it seems like the development of this parcel will be postponed until after Rezko's trial is decided.

If Auchi is sincere about holding onto the parcel, then he will probably wait a year or two, until many Chicago high-rise projects are completed, and then cash in on lower construction costs from contractors eager for work.

I just wish the architecture was better. I don't have nearly as many issues with Pappageorge/Haymes designs as many forumers here, but they will basically be the exclusive designers of Museum Park, K Station, and Riverside Park - three HUGE developments that in the future will, together, make up 15-20% of the downtown area. Strange as it seems to say, I wish Auchi would take a page from Loewenberg/Magellan and bring in other firms (Studio Gang, Arquitectonica, SCB).

The other issue I have with the development is that the upper level streets (level with Roosevelt/Upper Clark) are not connected with the lower level streets except for a tiny, convoluted street (labeled Wentworth and 14th) or through the parking garages. A nicely-designed, publicly-maintained ramp should be integrated somewhere between Roosevelt and Wells. Also, a pedestrian bridge crossing both the Metra tracks and Clark Street should be built into DP II.

One last tidbit - as proposed, the maximum parking ratio for multifamily buildings will be 1.2 space per unit.

Last edited by ardecila; February 15th, 2008 at 01:25 AM.
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Old February 15th, 2008, 03:05 AM   #35
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Here's the site plan as approved in the PD, with IKEA. It was done in 2004 by Pappageorge/Haymes and RTKL.



Once IKEA pulled out, they tried to pitch a lifestyle center in its place, and changed the name to the "Riverside District." Antunovich Associates is credited as "architect" in the booklet that includes this site plan:



I'm sure lots of other things will change before actual construction.

Last edited by Mr Downtown; February 15th, 2008 at 05:44 AM. Reason: Checked my files. Loopy, I think you have the site plans transposed below.
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Old February 15th, 2008, 04:04 AM   #36
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..

Last edited by Loopy; May 19th, 2010 at 02:55 AM.
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Old September 19th, 2008, 03:53 AM   #37
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Infrastructure work at Riverside Park?

The Chicago Journal says there is infrastructure work being done at the Riverside Park site. I realize they are a dubious source at best, but I remember seeing a bunch of equipment and materials on the site a few weeks ago. Can anybody shed some light on what may or may not be happening here?

http://www.chicagojournal.com/main.a...tionID=120&S=1

"Alert neighbors at Burnham Station in the South Loop have pestered Chicago Journal about infrastructure work happening in the 62-acre parcel of land at the southwest corner of Roosevelt and Clark streets.

The parcel, once owned by convicted political fundraiser and real estate wheeler-dealer Antoin Rezko, has what appears to be a relatively new water main running east to west perhaps two blocks south of Roosevelt in the otherwise grass and shrub-covered site. A Department of Water Management spokesperson said it's not their work; a Department of Transportation spokesman said the same."
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Old September 26th, 2008, 09:35 AM   #38
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Metra is doing track work on the Rock Island... perhaps they are using some of Rezko's land for staging?
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Old September 26th, 2008, 08:47 PM   #39
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I think it's just the new sewer line going in beneath Financial and Wells. And it's not Rezko's land any more.
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Old September 28th, 2008, 09:50 PM   #40
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Right, it belongs to Auchi now.. my bad.
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