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CHICAGO-Developer John P. Sweeney is building a 310,000-sf retail center on a vacant 6.6-acre site a mile south of the Loop. The Southgate Market in the 1000 and 1100 blocks of S. Canal Street will be anchored by a Whole Foods grocery store.

The northeast corner of Roosevelt Road and Canal Street will continue to be anchored by the 24-hour White Palace restaurant, a local landmark. The restaurant is not part of the development site, which runs run Taylor Street on the north and is bounded on the east by railroad tracks.

Whole Foods is taking about 40,000 sf of street-level space in the building, which will begin with a grade-level floor not visible from Canal Street and rise another four floors above grade, including garage and rooftop parking. Sweeney says he is in final stages of negotiations with retailers who, along with Whole Foods, would occupy 50% of the contemporary building designed by Eckenhoff Saunders Architects. The plans call for about 15 retailers, including restaurant tenants.

Sweeney declined to identify any of the potential tenants, as well as reveal the cost of his project, which won a favorable recommendation last week from the city’s plan commission. He expects to break ground this fall, with the Southgate Market expected to be open for business in the latter half of 2006.

Although plan commission member John H. Nelson notes the new development and other big-box retail operations that have sprung up on the Near South Side jeopardize the local “Maxwell Street Market,” the project won praise from 42nd Ward Alderman Burton Natarus. The Maxwell Street Market, a local institution that once included a thriving group of merchants, has been relocated by development and now operates on weekends.

“We are changing. We are an ever-changing world,” Natarus says. “This development is absolutely wonderful for Chicago…We need more of this.”

The project actually is in the 2nd Ward, and is supported by Alderman Madeline Haithcock along with the Near South Planning Board, which notes it would put a long vacant site back to use and serve a burgeoning neighborhood.

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