Mayor Brandon Johnson moving forward with plan to convert downtown offices to housing

4 buildings on LaSalle, Monroe to be turned into apartments, with at least 30% affordable housing units

Wednesday, April 3, 2024
Downtown aldermen support Loop office conversion plan
Chicago Mayor Brandon Johnson announced plans to move forward with the LaSalle Street Reimagined Initiative Wednesday morning.

CHICAGO (WLS) -- Mayor Brandon Johnson announced plans to move forward with the LaSalle Street Reimagined Initiative Wednesday morning.

It's an initiative from 2022, a plan by then-Mayor Lori Lightfoot, to convert property into residential space.

Wednesday, Mayor Johnson cemented that idea, to turn four outdated office space buildings, at 208 S. LaSalle St., 30 N. LaSalle St., 79 W. Monroe St. and 111 W. Monroe St., all in the central business district, into apartments, with at least 30% of the units providing affordable housing.

"We are in the process of recovering from the impact of the pandemic, resulting in vacancies, particularly our storefronts and offices, additionally evolving conditions. And workplaces and retail are changing," Mayor Johnson said. "We have to respond to these changes. The four projects that we are announcing today represent more than $528 million total in investment."

RELATED: Community meeting held to discuss the revitalization of LaSalle Street in Chicago's Loop

The projects will collectively repurpose about 40 floors of vacant and underused space, and will offer approximately $150 million in tax increment financing to the developers who plan to renovate the buildings.

"One of the largest adaptive reuse efforts to move forward within any central business districts in the United States, contributing to a dynamic mixes of upper story uses that will also resonate ground level within the public realm and local stores and restaurants," said Ciere Boatright, Chicago Department of Planning and Development commissioner.

City leaders announced they're moving forward with the LaSalle Street Reimagined Initiative, which was first introduced by former Mayor Lori Lightfoot.

The projects will add 1,000 new studio, one- and two-bedroom units.

Proponents believe the use of TIF money would help encourage new owners, while those that oppose question where the money will come from and if taxpayer dollars should be allocated to restore downtown.

The mayor announced plans to include more buildings in the project in the future.

"I'll tell you this: These four projects demonstrate our shared commitment to revitalizing downtown and creating affordable housing in every single neighborhood," Johnson said.

The current plans must be approved by the City Council, as well as other committees, including the Chicago Community Development Commission, but could begin early next year.

But downtown aldermen support the project.

"These are old historic buildings that were not supposed to be residential. So that requires a lot of expensive work to retrofit these buildings. But I do think it's a wise investment," Ald. Brendan Reilly said.

The affordable units are meant to help downtown lower wage workers, who often have to make long commutes on public transportation.

"We are slated to start to lease out these units at the end of 2026 and early 2027. So there's a commitment for us to move fast," Boatright said.

There are two additional projects also in the works, and the mayor's office hopes to be making an announcement about them in the near future.