Riverline and Southbank are two real estate developments in Chicago’s South Loop that will bring new life to Chicago’s riverfront.
Today I will discuss Riverline and Southbank, two of the next great riverfront communities in Chicago. These developments aim to make sustainable communities that complement the natural beauty of the Chicago River.
At first, Riverline was a collaborative mega-development between Chicago-based developer CMK and Australian firm Lendlease. But in 2018, the two developers disbanded the partnership so the project was separated into two parts: Riverline and Southbank.
Riverline is a modern riverfront community along the South Branch of the Chicago River. Here, the river’s current seawall is replaced with breathtaking wetlands and inspired landscaping by Hoerr Schaudt. The award-winning Perkins+Will master-planned the community towards natural tranquility and urban vibrancy.
Southbank, located on the South Branch of the Chicago River, brings together the best of modern architecture with over 2 acres of riverfront park. It delivers the best in modern residences, food, culture, and entertainment.
Now let’s dive into the story of the Riverline and Southbank developments.
History of Riverline and Southbank Developments
CMK Companies and Lendlease have originally partnered to form Riverline. Riverline will extend the Windy City’s central core south along the Chicago River. The $1.5 billion Riverline project, formerly known as River South, is estimated to take ten years to complete.
In November 2016, Chicago city officials received a 550+ page document from Michigan Avenue architecture firm Perkins+Will and West Loop landscape architects Hoerr Schaudt outlining some of the features of the public space that will be created between the project’s residential towers, and along the Chicago River.
In December 2016, CMK and Lendlease began construction. This included modification to the existing marina wall, construction of new concrete and sheet pile flood wall along the north end of the building, and parking lot revisions in the south parking lot.
In March 2018, CMK and Lendlease disbanded their partnership and chose to split the Riverline mega-development. CMK Companies will retain control of the south parcel, with Lendlease continuing work on the 7-acre north parcel. Lendlease renamed their portion as Southbank. The south parcel, situated between Polk Street and Roosevelt Road along the east bank of the Chicago River, will move forward with the Riverline name and master-plan designed by Perkins+Will.
The Cooper, originally Building D in the plan, was completed in 2018 and rises 321 feet over 29 stories. In September 2018, people started moving into this high-rise residential building at 720 South Wells Street.
In August 2019, Lendlease opened Southbank Park to the public. This riverfront park features an amphitheater made of reclaimed limestone.
In August 2020, Southbank already completed the walkway and a small park.
Lendlease closed nearly $200 million in recapitalization loans on its multifamily assets in Chicago, including Southbank in September 2020.
In October 2020, Lendlease started fencing at the Southbank site. The newly-fenced section is located along Harrison Street, at the intersection of where S Wacker Drive and S Franklin Street both terminate, next to D’Angelo Park. The new perimeter occupies the place of the tallest building within Southbank.
From May to July 2021, Lendlease was digging up the foundation of the Reed at Southbank. Crews tore up the yard, and dug in the dirt. Then in June of that year, they commenced construction of the high-rise called The Reed.
Now let’s check out the different areas that are in development in the Riverline and Southbank sites.
Developed Areas in Riverline and Southbank:
The Riverline and Southbank real estate projects are currently under development. And here are the things that either have been completed or are still with construction underway.
a. Southbank Park
Hoerr Schaudt's work along the Chicago River delivers a wonderfully serene location for Chicagoans to live, work, and play, thanks to meticulous restoration of the natural habitat, a multi-use route system, and enhanced public access points.
Southbank Park has designs that respect the site's historic roots while also celebrating its contemporary urban setting. The two-acre core open space, which is part of the Phase I construction alongside The Cooper Southbank luxury apartments, serves as a stimulus for future development phases by allowing people to experience the river in one of the more naturalistic settings throughout its course through the city.
b. Southbank Riverwalk
The Southbank Riverwalk is also designed by the distinguished Hoerr Schaudt Landscape Architects. The trees, bushes, and grasses on the property were chosen for their beauty, resilience, and low maintenance requirements. It features a waterfront viewing platform, a kayak launch, and a future water taxi stop.
c. The Cooper
The Cooper, located on the South Branch of the Chicago River, is Southbank's first residential high rise. The Cooper offers modern homes with a distinct viewpoint on life, inspired by our city's never-ending creative energy. Brand new apartments are now available for rent.
The Cooper offers many possibilities to create, rev up, impress, and kick back with elegant homes, vast views of the city's skyline and river, and dynamic amenity areas.
d. The Reed
The Reed, the second residential tower at Southbank, ranks 11th on YIMBY's list of Chicago's tallest developments. It is still under construction but when finished, it will stand 440 feet tall at the site's southern edge. The building, which will be located at 234 W Polk Street, connects to Southbank Park and extend the riverwalk close to W Polk Street, creating a more active connection. This skyscraper will open its doors in 2023.
e. Miscellaneous Infrastructure, Housing, and Business Investments
Disregarded for years as an industrial highway, the Chicago River is currently undergoing a period of intense revitalization. It has reemerged as an urban amenity with transportation, infrastructure, and even retail development. It is part of the City of Chicago government’s $1 billion investment in revitalizing Chicago.
The City is synchronizing an initial $750 million in public investment through this unprecedented collaboration, while also drawing considerable additional private and charitable money, responding to changing commercial patterns, and improving the local culture at designated corners and intersections. After two years, the project has raised more than $1.4 billion in public and private funds for small companies, public infrastructure improvements, historic building restoration, and fostering equity and resilience where it is most needed.
The Riverline and Southbank developments fall into the recently approved Roosevelt/Clark TIF district. They will build and improve infrastructure in the north and south parts of the Chicago River. This includes the continuous riverwalk, water taxi stops, and pedestrian access advancements.
The Riverline and Southbank developments also offer 3,700 residences spread across eight waterfront towers and blocks of townhouses. Riverline will have 1,000 residential units upon completion. And Southbank plans for 2,000 new residences.
So far, only the Cooper, the Southbank Park, and the Southbank Riverwalk are the completed parts of the Riverline and Southbank development projects. The rest of the development is still underway. But it is expected that the two projects will be finished within ten years.
The popular waterway, the Chicago River, is currently in the midst of a transformation into Chicago’s next great frontier for recreation and communal development.