The ULI Chicago Product Council Blue and Green flights hit the water on Wednesday, June 15th for their annual boat tour, this year highlighting new development on Goose Island. Product Council members and guests had the opportunity to hear from R2 and CBRE about the development and leasing plans for R2’s investments on the island in a discussion moderated by Liquideed CEO, and Blue Flight Co-chair, Ronan Remandaban.
Max Meyers, CIO of R2, spoke about the history of the island which many Chicagoans pass daily, but know little about. The first interesting piece of history, is that Goose Island is in fact a man-made island. The 160-acre area was created through the excavation of a channel on what is now the east side of the island in the 1850s. While Goose Island has long been home to industrial purposes, throughout the mid-1900’s, the island was downtrodden, and much of the infrastructure was left to crumble. However, the re-zoning of the island to a Planned Manufacturing District (PMD)in 1990 brought some rebirth and redevelopment with the opening of the Sara Lee plant and offices, where Kendall College stands today. Despite efforts, Goose Island never really hit its stride as an industrial center. R2, an owner and operator of adaptive reuse projects in the Midwest, saw Goose Island as an opportunity to help the Island’s assets realize their full potential. With R2’s purchase and investments in about 13 acres of the island (including 909 W. Bliss, 1200 N. Branch, 1315 N. Branch, and 934 N. Branch), the company is hoping to turn this island into a tech/creative office hub for Chicago.
Dan Lyne, SVP of Global Technology and Media at CBRE, is working with R2 to market Goose Island’s potential, and bring tenants to the island. Lyne spoke about the current centricity of the island to high-density and emerging neighborhoods, and the increased accessibility to the island that will result when pedestrian footbridges are built, which will make the island just a 3 block walk from the blue line. Tenants are looking for “buildings with soul” and Lyne anticipates many will like the story behind what R2 is doing with its properties on the island. Tenants are also looking for flexibility. Many young tech companies will eventually have hiring surges and may not want to commit to large floorplates now, but want to be in a building where they can grow in place, without causing much disruption to the business. R2’s plans for multiple developments on the island take into account this tenant concern, and will enable clients to scale in this way.
One potential challenge of Goose Island for now is the zoning as a PMD and the implication for retail on the island. Limited permitted retail means it might be harder for future employees to find lunch options nearby. Lyne believes that this potential issue is not highly concerning, as he anticipates many of the future tenants will have food amenities for their employees, and anything that is lacking can be solved through food trucks.
R2’s biggest challenge may be educating Chicago and potential tenants about the grand possibilities of the island. R2 and CBRE definitely made progress towards awareness and excitement about Goose Island at the event, as 100+ real estate industry professionals left the event buzzing about the island’s potential. See Event Photos
Authored by Jessie Callahan, General Growth Properties and CPC Blue Flight Member
The ULI Chicago Product Council Program consists of two, broadly-based urban development and mixed-use Councils with over 90 ULI members involved. Council membership is for one year and includes an application process and program fees.