Pacific Reach Properties plans two big apartment towers in Chicago’s West Loop

With 1,053 units, it would be the biggest apartment project in downtown Chicago in at least three decades, if Pacific Reach can pull it off. That may seem like a stretch given the current state of the downtown market—rents have plunged and the occupancy rate is at its lowest level since at least the 1990s—but Pacific Reach wouldn’t complete construction for at least two years, and a recovery could be well along by then. Recent data suggest the market is already bottoming out.

A Pacific Reach executive was not immediately available for comment. The firm plans the two buildings at 601-625 W. Monroe St., a parcel it acquired in 2018 for $28 million, its first deal in Chicago. It bought the site from a venture led by Chicago developer Steve Fifield, who proposed a 75-story office tower on the site several years ago.

Founded in 2014, Pacific Reach today owns more than 1,800 apartments, 1.4 million square feet of commercial space and 1,215 hotel rooms in markets including Phoenix, Los Angeles and Toronto, according to its website. Aside from the West Loop site, currently a surface parking lot, the firm owns one other property in Chicago, Linea, a 265-unit apartment building in the Loop that it acquired in 2018.

Pacific Reach has been in discussions with Reilly about its West Loop plans since 2018 and has made several changes since then, according to the email. The developer has lowered the height of the taller building, from 54 stories, dropped a plan to include a hotel in the project, added retail space and bike spaces and lowered the height of the podium at the base of the two high-rises, Reilly wrote.

Designed by Chicago architecture firm Solomon Cordwell Buenz, the two proposed West Loop towers “are linked through their dynamic and opposing arrangement with a shared expression of a vertical element inspired by the Chicago River,” his email says.

Pacific Reach still has to clear many hurdles before it can begin construction. Because the developer is proposing a bigger project than allowed under current zoning, its proposal needs to the approval of the Chicago Plan Commission and the full City Council, according to Reilly’s email. To secure the zoning it needs, the developer plans to contribute $5.5 million into a city fund to support commercial development on the south and west sides.

Reilly’s email did not include any information about a community meeting in which Pacific Reach would present its proposal and answer questions—typically a key step in the approval process.

Pacific Reach would also need to secure equity and debt financing to pay for construction, which could cost more than $400 million. But it’s likely the developer would stagger the development, waiting to break ground on the second high-rise until the first one is full.

Though 2020 was an awful year for downtown apartment landlords, that hasn’t stopped developers from proposing new residential projects. Late last year, Crescent Heights proposed a 47-story,…

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