(For more retail coverage, click GlobeSt.com/RETAIL.)

CHICAGO-Construction is expected to begin soon on the more than $40-million MetraMarket, the 200,000-sf, ground-level retail redevelopment being created beneath overhead commuter rail tracks. The first phase of the development, approximately 66,000 sf on the south block, is 50% preleased, says Jim Whittington, managing director of finance and investments for US Equities Realty.

Paris-based Sebastien Bensidoun has signed a 15,000-sf lease to anchor the redevelopment while Providence, RI-based CVS is adding a 14,000-sf location in the new two-block retail area north of the Ogilvie Transportation Center. Caffe RoM, a European coffee bar by day and wine bar in the afternoon and evening, will occupy 2,900 sf on Canal Street, between Randolph and Washington streets.

The MetraMarket is expected to have restaurants, a newsstand or bookstore and other food businesses such as an ice cream emporium. Developer US Equities Realty is currently in “serious negotiations” with “a number of other” potential tenants. “There have been leases drafted back and forth that we anticipate signing in the next month or so,” Whittington tells GlobeSt.com. “We would be making announcements of those at that time, but one will be a white tablecloth restaurant.”

Ogilvie Transportation Center is visited by 95,000 commuters daily, topped only by nearby Union Station. In addition, the Chicago Transit Authority’s Green Line station at Clinton Street sees 2,260 commuters a day.

The more than $40-million project is reactivating a 95-year-old building bounded by Canal, Clinton, Lake and Washington streets. Although terms of the Bensidoun and CVS deals were not disclosed, asking lease rates for MetraMarket space ranges from $30 per sf to $60 per sf net plus expenses, Whittington says. Construction is expected to take six to nine months, with the first occupancies expected in the late summer or early fall. About 100,000 sf is already being used as a parking garage.

The second phase of the project will be the north block, bounded by Randolph, Lake Canal and Clinton streets. The spaces in the north block are expected to be larger and may contain some “destination oriented retailers,” Whittington says. The second phase is expected to begin in 2008.

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