Details of Related Midwest’s ambitious master planned project, The 78, became a little more clear today as the developer unveiled the first phase of the project. The University of Illinois System’s Discovery Partners Institute (DPI) has signed a letter of intent to build a new innovation center at The 78, on land donated by Related Midwest—and perhaps acting as a catalyst for a technology and innovation hub within the development.
“With this announcement today of Discovery Partners Institute and the Illinois Innovation Network, we are launching a new era for Chicago as an extraordinary focal point for an unparalleled tech workforce and research and development that will attract talent to our state from around the world, strengthening Illinois’ long-term economic vitality for generations to come,” said Governor J.B. Pritzker. “Illinois’ nexus of partnerships, innovation hubs, public and private universities, national laboratories and international research programs is the foundation for a technology ecosystem that will rival any location in the world. And through the Illinois Innovation Network, DPI’s success will radiate across the state to 15 hubs from Chicago to Rockford to Peoria to Edwardsville. We are investing in workforce development, innovation and R&D all across our state.”
DPI, which is part of the Illinois Innovation Network (IIN) and funded through a combination of private and public funds, would be a one-stop solution to cultivate and retain new-economy talent at scale, expand the diversity of Chicago’s tech workforce and boost research and development activity to drive the local economy. Construction should break ground on the DPI in the next 12 months.
Work is already underway at The 78 on the Wells-Wentworth Connector, the main thoroughfare for the project that will be a modern, pedestrian-friendly streetscape with protected bike lanes linking the Loop to Chinatown. Other Phase 1 infrastructure improvements include construction of LaSalle and 15th Streets through the site, renovation of Clark Street, relocation and enclosure of Metra tracks and reconstruction of the Chicago River seawall. When completed, The 78 will transform 62 acres that have been vacant for almost 100 years into a vibrant, mixed-use community and extend Chicago’s central business district southward.
“Our vision for The 78 is to create Chicago’s next great neighborhood,” said Curt Bailey, president of Related Midwest. “With a dynamic Phase 1 plan that includes DPI as its centerpiece, we’re showing how a 21st Century neighborhood, created from the ground up and connected to so many exceptional areas, will bring new opportunities to all of Chicago. DPI’s organizational model will drive long-term innovation across critical growth industries and draw corporate tenants, entrepreneurs and venture capitalists—from across Chicago and around the globe—to The 78, where they will find top talent, groundbreaking research and new technologies that support future expansion.”
Phase 1 will bring roughly 2.8 million square feet of commercial space to the northern half of the site. In addition to the DPI, this includes 1.5 million square feet of office space in both loft-style and high-rise buildings and 700,000 square feet of highly-amenitized residential, which includes a 20 percent affordable commitment. The work will also usher in 100,000 square feet of fitness, retail, hospitality and restaurant space, all interwoven around what will eventually be 12 acres of publicly accessible green and open space.
In Phase 1 alone, five acres will be dedicated to the Crescent Park—a green space that will be seven acres at its completion and follows the Chicago River’s original flow through the site. Crescent Park will offer recreational opportunities and year-round programming for all ages. The 78 will also feature three acres of new riverfront inspired by the downtown Chicago Riverwalk, but with a setback that offers three times the space, allowing for a greater variety of uses in all seasons. Skidmore, Owings & Merrill are handling master planning for the site.
DPI’s state-of-the-art immersion facility at The 78 is designed to attract 2,000 national and international student scholars annually, who will work with top minds in academia and business leaders across industries on cutting-edge research and development, inspiring new technologies and businesses. The site for the new DPI is located between outdoor amenities in Crescent Park and the vibrant Wells Street, steps from the Chicago River. According to STL Architects, the Chicago-based, minority-owned architecture firm behind an initial conceptual rendering, the site’s unique location is the source of inspiration for the building’s distinct design.
The design celebrates the connection between Crescent Park and Wells Street with a large corner opening, which visually and physically extends the activity generated within the park into the building. In the conceptual design, a multi-floor atrium space acts as a public square for students to collaborate in an informal manner while cultivating a campus environment in the heart of Chicago. The social gathering space also gives students access to amenities and unique rooftop spaces (both indoor and outdoor) above Wells Street, providing spectacular views of the river, the Saint Charles Air Line bridge and Chicago sunsets.
DPI’s initial focus will be on applying the Illinois economy’s existing strengths in data analytics and computing to drive innovation in food and agriculture; environment and water; health and wellness; transportation and logistics; as well as finance and insurance. As one of The 78’s anchor tenants, DPI will help shape the neighborhood’s identity as Chicago’s innovation community and be part of a $7 billion mixed-use development that is expected to generate over $40 billion in economic activity over the next 30 years.
“With Governor Pritzker’s leadership and commitment, and the support and encouragement of Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot, DPI is now poised to become the major hub of innovation, technology development and job creation that we all envision for Chicago, the state of Illinois and the world. This investment by the state adds real fuel to the economic engines of DPI and IIN,” said University of Illinois System president Tim Killeen. “We are grateful for Governor Pritzker’s vision, and his belief in what we are determined to create—an ever-more vibrant innovation ecosystem serving all the people of our state. And DPI’s permanent home in The 78 will provide a one-of-a-kind space to live, work and create, providing a real magnet for the kind of talent the city and the state need.”