Since the May 8 release of the North Branch modernization plans that will impact zoning along the Chicago River, the current site of the Chicago Tribune’s Freedom Center printing plant is one of the hottest parcels of land in the city. No longer considered to be a manufacturing district, the location is now zoned for commercial and residential development.
Located on the Chicago River near the Chicago Avenue and Halsted Street intersection, the Freedom Center site is prime for development. It’s on the cusp of Lincoln Park, West Town, River North, and the Near North Side.
The future owner of the property is Sinclair Broadcast Group, which purchased Tribune Media for $3.9 billion on the same day as the North Branch plans were released. The group has plans to sell off all Tribune Media property within two years, which also includes the vacant seven-acre Tribune site across the street.
The neighboring site was being evaluated for other potential uses back in 2013 and Riverside Investment & Development was chosen to be a partner in a joint venture to develop the property that sat on land with fewer zoning restrictions. Plans included retail, residential, and commercial uses. Despite the sale of Tribune Media to Sinclair, Riverside still plans to be involved in the venture.
Plans to redevelop the site stirred talks of a Freedom Center sale in 2016, but Murray McQueen, Tribune Media's president of real estate released a statement saying there were no such plans. The value of the land was unclear at the time, and remained that way until the release of the North Branch plans. Now, the site may be worth $150 million to $200 million, according to Matt Garrison, managing principal of real estate investment firm R2.
“The North Branch plan essentially makes it one of the best development sites in the country," he told Crain’s Chicago Business. "You're so close to downtown it will support density."