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CHICAGO-Mayor Richard M. Daley’s vision of a Central Business District where people live as well as work took another step forward Thursday with the plan commission’s favorable recommendation for the Heritage at Millennium Park. The 57-story mixed-use building would add 357 condominium units, 100,000 sf of retail space and a 595-car parking garage at the southeast corner of Randolph Street and Wabash Avenue.

Seven East Loop retail buildings on the 47,346-sf site would be razed to make way for the one million-sf development worth in excess of $250 million. Richard A. Hanson, one of the principals in the group, says the developers are talking with four financial sources and hope to begin construction Nov. 1. The project would be completed in the spring of 2004, he adds.

Designs by the architectural firm Solomon Cordwell Buenz and Associates promise a curved window line facing Lake Michigan as well as a major renovation of Garland Court, which now is little more than an alley.

The only downside to the development proposed by Mesa Development LLC, Walsh Investors LLC, Klutznick-Fisher Development Co. and Markwell Properties is fear of traffic congestion on Randolph and Wabash, as well as neighboring Garland Court and Washington Street.

“We don’t have a system of moving people around the Downtown area without cars,” says Alderman Burton Natarus, whose 42nd Ward includes the Heritage at Millennium Park site. “Will this have an impact on the area? You bet it will.”

Natarus went on to call the intersection of Michigan Avenue and Randolph, one block east of the site, as “one of the worst intersections in the United States.” However, he sees other benefits making him support the project, which now goes to the city council.

“This is a major project. The architecture is fantastic,” Natarus says. “It’s something the mayor wants to do–have more people live Downtown. And Wabash Avenue needs this refreshing look.”

The north-south street is covered by the Chicago Transit Authority elevated tracks, which are used by three commuter lines. However, the site also is next to the Marshall Field’s flagship store as well as the Chicago Cultural Center.

Developers plan to sell condominiums ranging from 915 sf to 3,750 sf, with an average of 1,660 sf, at prices ranging from $250,000 to $2.5 million. They would be built in a 49-story tower atop a broader eight-story base that promises to include up to 20 retail storefronts; a 23,000-sf, two-story space the developers offer to lease to the city for $1 a year for cultural events as well as four stories of parking. The developers, which include a 7.5% interest by Water Tower Place, Oak Orchard and Oakbrook shopping center developer James Klutznick, are receiving no public money.

Mesa Development LLC–consisting of former Mesirow Stein Real Estate Inc. associates Richard A. Hanson, Richard Shields and Shawn Hunt–and Walsh Investors LLC have 42.5% stakes in the Heritage at Millennium Park project.

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