North Union Megadevelopment To Transform Chicago’s Near North

In all my years as a leasing agent, I’ve seen some pretty cool developments spring up across downtown Chicago. But spanning an 8-acre stretch, the newly-revealed plans for North Union’s 2.9 million square-feet of apartments and more – right in the center of all the action – has me doing a happy dance. 

This $1.3 billion mega-development is going to make an impressive mark on Chicago’s Near North Side, and the details have me drooling…

North Union’s Decade-Long Plan

Good things take time, which is why North Union’s development is set to span ten years. But, they aren’t wasting any time. A clear decade-long timeline kicks off before the end of 2021, and I expect developers to hit the ground running.  

Approved by the Chicago Plan Commission in May 2021, North Union includes over a dozen new buildings. Yes – a dozen! Located in a sweet spot surrounded by River North, Old Town and the Gold Coast, it’s set to bring 2,656 new apartment units to the area. It’ll also house condos, town homes, commercial space and even 2.5-acres of public parks. 

The North Union megadevelopement plans in Old Town Chicago
A bird’s-eye rendering of the North Union mega-development; a decade-long plan that is slated to start in 2021. Image: Hartshorne Plunkard Architecture

Where is North Union Being Built?

Are you scratching your head, wondering exactly where developers found 8-acres of land in downtown Chicago to even build a development this huge? 

Chicago’s Moody Bible Institute – a Christian bible college – is selling about half of their campus to developers. The 100-year-old organization will continue operations and ownership of its core campus while making room for fresh development.  

North Union will cover over four square blocks, bound on the south and north by W. Chestnut Street and Oak Street. To the east and west are the CTA Brown/Purple elevated train line and Wells Street.  

North Union will cover over four square blocks, just west of Wells Street and north of W. Chestnut Street. This prime downtown is a developer’s dream! 

A map of where Chicago's North Union megadevelopment will be in downtown
An illustration of the Union North mega-development, which is replacing private property that was previously part of the Moody Bible Institute campus. Image: Hartshorne Plunkard Architecture

North Union’s Developer and Designers

JDL Development is leading the way on this massive plan. Within the last 20 years, JDL has become a top Chicago development firm, primarily creating luxury high-rise apartments and condominiums, retail, single-family homes, town homes, and student housing.

In 2013, JDL sparked a frenzy of new luxury apartment developments in Old Town when they built 1225 Old Town, which was the first new apartment building built in this historic neighborhood in 30 years. 

JDL’s portfolio features several notable luxury apartments throughout the city, including 1000 South Clark in the South Loop, Eight Eleven Uptown (the first new rental high-rise in Uptown since the 1980s), and 640 North Wells.

They’re no stranger to major developments either. In 2021, JDL wrapped up another massive development named One Chicago. The luxury residential complex includes two towers – one topping out at an eye-popping 78 stories. 

Hartshorne Plunkard Architecture, Latent Design, and Omni Workshop make up the design team for the North Union mega-development. 

The team lead – Hartshorne Plunkard – has extensive experience working with JDL on several of their Chicago luxury apartments, including one of the towers at One Chicago. 

Inside of an apartment at One Chicago, a new luxury apartment building in downtown Chicago
A luxury apartment living room at One Chicago, created by JDL Development and Hartshorne Plunkard Architecture. We can expect this team to create new apartments for the North Union mega-development that are equally stylish with on-trend luxury designs. Image: One Chicago

Big Plans for North Union Apartments

Construction on North Union will roll out in five phases over approximately ten years. While details about apartment finishes and all the amenities are yet to be filled in, there are key clues giving us a pretty good idea of what to expect. 

And let’s not forget about the economic boost the project will bring to the area. Since the former Moody Bible Institute property is mostly private land, the development is estimated to generate at least $20 million in new tax revenues. And, it’ll bring employment opportunities to the neighborhood; up to 1,000 construction jobs annually for the next decade, and ultimately around 400 permanent jobs by the time the entire development is complete.

A look at the plan for the North Union megadevelopment in downtown Chicago
The five-phase plan for the North Union mega-development is expected to take about 10 years to complete. Image: Hartshorne Plunkard Architecture

The plans show leasing offices in five of the buildings, so those properties are sure to have apartments for rent. Since the other buildings are residential, but do not show a leasing office, I’m assuming they’ll include condominiums and townhomes for sale. Of course, the developers could make adjustments over the course of ten years to meet market demands.

So, let’s take a peek at what’s to come: 

North Union Phase 1: Estimated Start 2021

  • 878 N. Wells St. – 26 stories – apartments
  • 232 W. Chestnut St. – 5 stories
  • 871 N. Franklin St. – 4 stories

North Union Phase 2: Estimated Start 2023

  • 920 N. Franklin St. – 19 stories – apartments
  • 216 W. Locust St. – 2 stories
  • 215 – 221 W. Walton St. – 6 stories
  • 909 N. Franklin St. – 12 stories – apartments

North Union Phase 3: Estimated Start 2025

  • 205 W. Oak St. – 35 stories – apartments
  • 235 – 305 W. Oak St. – row of townhouses
  • 212 W. Walton St. – townhouse
  • 211 W. Oak St. – townhouse

North Union Phase 4: Estimated Start 2027

  • 312 W. Walton St. – 42 stories – apartments

North Union Phase 5: Estimated Start 2029

  • 300 W. Oak St. – 57 stories 
  • 310 W. Oak St. – 65 stories 

North Union’s Green Space

Across the development, 30,000 square feet of ground floor commercial space will be incorporated into several properties. But what’s most exciting of all is the 2.5 acres of green space that will be open for public use. 

Omni Workshop is handling the landscape design, and the plans show a planting schedule that includes 15 different types of trees! I’m always excited when developers add beautiful landscaped parks and walkways, living up to Chicago’s motto: “urbs in horto” or “city in a garden.”  

In addition to tree plantings, other sustainability plans for the entire North Union development include green roofs, onsite bike parking, electric vehicle charging stations, as well as implementation of LEED and WELL building standards.

With all the planned green space, I would expect the apartment buildings to be pet-friendly and include on-site dog runs and dog parks too. 

North Union’s Neighborhood

The development will be connected to four prominent neighborhoods that are just north of Chicago’s downtown central business district – River North, Near North, Old Town and Gold Coast.

Popular with both locals and tourists, the entire area is known for high-end hospitality, cultural and historic landmarks, designer shopping, and abundant nightlife. Universities, a wide variety of professional offices, and two major hospitals also make up this bustling part of downtown. 

Public transportation is all around, including multiple CTA train lines, buses, and even water taxis on the Chicago River. Access to the expressway is a few blocks south of North Union at Ohio Street, and Lake Shore Drive is a few minutes east on Chicago Avenue.  

There are several Chicago Park District green spaces with plenty of fresh air, sports and recreation within walking distance of North Union. And of course, the shores of Lake Michigan are within walking distance, a short trip on the bus, or a few minutes bike ride to the Lakefront Trail.  

A map of downtown Chicago that shows where megadevelopment North Union will be
Area map surrounding the planned North Union mega-development coming to downtown Chicago’s near north side.

Notable Neighbors

If you can’t wait to move to an apartment in one of downtown Chicago’s best neighborhoods, connect with one of our leasing agents today. Our team of apartment experts would love to help you find the perfect place.