CHICAGO-Evanston developer Bob Horner plans to build an 18-story, 88-unit loft building with 4,000-sf of ground-floor retail space at 733 S. Wells St., now a parking lot that serves a South Loop pocket described as “a no-man’s land.” Horner’s $22-million project, which could be ready for occupancy in June 2006, recently won a favorable recommendation from the city’s plan commission.

Although near the River City development as well as a converted 138-unit multifamily rental loft building, the area suffers from a lack of infrastructure, city officials admit. “This is sort of a no-man’s land there,” says 42nd Ward Alderman Burton Natarus. “You go down there on Wells Street, and you end up in rubble.”

That eventually could change. In addition to Horner’s project, plans already have been approved for Paper Place and LaSalle Park on more than 27 acres south of Polk Street.

Although it would allow another 88 units on an 0.76-acre site, Horner’s Wells Financial LLC’s planned development would result in a lower density allowed by the underlying zoning for the site. The floor-area-ratio will increase to 8.35, about 30% less than the 12.0 allowed.

The second through seventh floors of the new building would have 131 parking spaces. The top 11 floors would have one- and two-bedroom loft units with balconies. Plans call for landscaped terraces on the seventh and eighth floors. The ground-floor retail space would likely be divided into two spaces, perhaps for a coffee and medical offices.

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