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CHICAGO-Two condominium buildings with a combined 348 units could be built on the eastern bank of the Chicago River south of Chicago Avenue, on a 1.7-acre site once part of retailer Montgomery Wards’ headquarters. Plans for the $100-million development were presented to the Chicago plan commission last week, which reviewed the proposal but made no recommendation.

The Two River Place LLC site is south of Wards’ massive headquarters building, which also is being rehabbed into 241 condominium units. An 18-story building would be constructed on the northern half of the site, with a 19-story building to follow. A parcel on the southern edge of the site would be donated to the Chicago Park District before an occupancy permit is granted for the first building.

Plans include a riverwalk, which would be accessible to the public from the park or Chicago Avenue as well as a walkway through the River Place project. Although the walkway from the riverwalk to Larabee Street would be owned by the condominium association, it would be available to the public, plan commissioners were told.

Construction on the first building would begin in February 2002, says Two River Place LLC principal Ron Shipka, with completion expected in the early summer of 2003. Once 50% of the units in the first building are sold, construction would begin on the second, he adds.

“Financing is in place by a consortium led by Harris Bank and New Century Bank,” Shipka says.

One-bedroom units would start just under $200,000 and go up to $250,000, he says. Two-bedroom units would range from $275,000 to $400,000, he adds, with three bedrooms selling from the high-600s to $700,000 range.

The only cause for concern was voiced by Alderman Burt Natarus, whose 42nd Ward includes the Montgomery Wards site. He got assurance from planning and development officials that the walkway between the buildings would be maintained by the condominium association, but would be open to the public. In addition, Natarus wants the association to know they cannot claim monetary reimbursement for the strip of land, as has happened in a Providence, RI case.

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