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CHICAGO-US Equities Realty is nearing completion on the first phase of its $40 million MetraMarket retail development. The 200,000-square-foot project is connected to Ogilvie Transportation Center’s suburban commuter concourse and planned to revitalize two blocks bounded by Canal, Clinton, Lake and Washington streets. Expected to offer 100,000 square feet of rentable space and 100,000 square feet of parking when completed, the first phase brings 120 parking spaces and 60,000 square feet of retail, which will begin to deliver next month.

“Our project is different than the standard retail project, because we have a very interesting niche of clients, users and people who will be consumers in this development,” Bob Wislow, US Equities chairman and CEO, tells GlobeSt.com. “We’re in an area which has absolutely grown with residential and office development in recent years. There’s all these buildings which have been built within two blocks of this project, but there’s been no infrastructure of this kind of retail project in this area.”

The first portion of the retail space is more than 50% preleased, with tenant occupancy beginning next month, marked by the opening of a 15,000-square-foot CVS. Later this fall, the development will see the opening of a 2,000-square-foot Lavazza coffee shop. The development’s anchor, Chicago French Market, will open in 15,000 square feet in October or November, managed by Paris-based Sebastien Bensidoun and comprised of dozens of local vendors offering fresh produce, meats, fish, cheese and a bakery.

“There’s a giant shift on a countrywide basis to a different way to buy your food, knowing the person who’s selling you your fish or produce, and knowing where it’s coming from,” Wislow says. “Naturally, that movement has helped and been a boon for us. If you look at Whole Foods and how well they’re doing, that translates to what we’re doing but on more of a local and personal level.”

Wislow says US Equities is leasing up the project and currently engaged in letter of intent negotiations with two other tenants for space. Asking lease rates for space in the development range from $35 to $60 per square foot. “We’re excited to get the French Market open, because we believe that will attract additional tenants and be a traffic generator for the rest of the project,” he says.

US Equities doesn’t have a set time table for phase two of the development, planned to bring an additional 40,000 square feet of retail and more parking. Wislow says the company won’t move forward on it until all of phase one has been leased up. The development is located in the West Loop submarket.

“There isn’t much vacancy rate in the West Loop and there’s pent up demand for this type of retail, so things are going very well in that neighborhood,” Wislow says. “We’re serving a totally unused, completely underretailed, unserved pocket. In addition to that, we have the train passengers, with 115,000 Metra commuters that come through here, which is wonderful icing on the cake.”

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