Announcements 10.15.2021

Creating Community along the Chicago River

With a Riverfront park at its core, Southbank forges a new destination bridging the Chicago Loop and Chinatown
Unobstructed views, plus the new Southbank Park and reclaimed riverbank, are among the amenities at residents’ doorsteps.

Along a once-gritty, long-abandoned stretch of the Chicago River south of the Loop, a new seven-acre community of residences and publicly accessible parkland is fast taking shape.

Southbank, as it is known, takes its inspiration in building design and open space from its history of artisans and printmakers, shipping along the river, and the natural flora and fauna once planted along the river’s banks. The very names of the residential buildings, The Cooper, opened in 2018, and The Reed, breaking ground in summer 2021, evoke their sense of place: the writers and artists who plied their trade nearby the major waterway to the heart of the city.

Southbank Park restores access to one of the city’s greatest natural assets, the Chicago River.
“Perkins&Will did a fabulous job on the masterplan, which was well-received by the local community,” says Peter Siegal (left), Lendlease’s senior vice president and director of development operations. Adds Linda Kozloski (right), creative design director for Lendlease Development in Chicago, "We are creating places where people want to live, visit, and return to.”

Today’s Southbank grew out of our masterplan and collaboration, since 2014, with Lendlease, one of the world’s leading developers, with a longstanding commitment to urban regeneration. Residents include a mix of young professionals who can bike or walk to their offices in the Loop and empty nesters taking advantage of the vibrant Chicago art and culture scene. The site is bound by the river on the west, Harrison Street on the north, Wells Street on the east, and Polk Street on the south, just blocks from the historically significant, vibrant Printers Row. Together we saw the potential for a new neighborhood emerging from the site of the demolished Grand Central Station train terminal and restoring access to one of the city’s greatest natural assets, the Chicago River – a place to live, visit, and play, open and accessible to all.

The transformation of Southbank is well under way with the first phase of residences, landscaping of trees, shrubs and grasses, and a two-acre park that includes a riverfront amphitheater lined with reclaimed lannon stone blocks that once formed the foundation of the train terminal – all intended to welcome residents and their neighbors beyond. Southbank Park also is now home to birdhouses designed by students at the University of Illinois at Chicago. The city’s Riverwalk has been extended through Southbank and will reach still further in years to come. More development is on the way: The Reed is expected to be completed in 2023, with two more buildings to follow; the riverbank will be home to a new water taxi stop adapted from an existing bridge abutment; and retail offerings are expected to spring up in buildings along Wells Street, forging even stronger connections between Southbank and its surrounding community. “Our vision from the original master plan was to create a true neighborhood, activating access to the river, and providing shared space for the greater community,” says Bryan Schabel, Design Principal.

The opening of The Cooper, with its white, undulating facade referencing the river’s flow, brought a 29-story, 452-unit rental high-rise, combined with 26 rental townhomes that wrap the base of the tower to face Southbank Park. Unobstructed views north and south, plus the new park and reclaimed riverbank, are among the amenities at residents’ doorsteps. The Cooper itself is rich with amenities, designed to enhance the feeling of community and range from pools and yoga classes to a music listening room and outdoor movie-screening area. “The Cooper has been a success from the start,” says Kozloski.

Southbank Park and The Cooper
The Cooper is rich with amenities, designed to enhance the feeling of community and range from pools and yoga classes to a music listening room and outdoor movie-screening area.
“We and Perkins&Will share the same values of sustainability and creating high-quality design and a great place to live.”

Linda Kozloski, Creative Design Director for Lendlease Development

The 41-story Reed, with a mix of rental and condominiums, is set at a right angle to The Cooper, and is a design counterpoint with its sleek dark exterior and staccato patterns undulating in four waves as they reach the top. They are “compatible design cousins,” says Kozloski. Siegal likens The Reed’s façade to “naturalistic rhythms that look like sheet music.” Efficiently designed residences, with concrete ceilings and space for working from home, draw inspiration from the site’s industrial past, in a building with a contemporary flair with its co-working spaces and amenity floors on the second and eighth levels. Sitting atop a two-story podium that extends and is suspended 30-feet above the Riverwalk, The Reed will provide stunning views to the Loop to the north, Lake Michigan to the east and the River and Chicago’s grid to the south and west.

The sleek design of The Reed, from its exterior to its amenity spaces, draw inspiration from the site’s industrial past

Both buildings were designed long before the COVID-19 pandemic, but they are well-placed for a future where access to light and open spaces and opportunities to work from home are highly valued. We and Lendlease look ahead to the day when Southbank is part of an ever-expanding development that may link the long-abandoned east side of the Chicago River to Chinatown. “The consistency of our vision from day one,” says Thomas Kasznia, practice leader and principal, “was a large development with open spaces that embraces the river and is open to all.” “Southbank is as good an example of any Lendlease urban regeneration project in the world,” says Siegal. “We found land of little commercial interest and have reconfigured it as a neighborhood.”