Vista Tower

Rendering of Vista Tower schedule for completion in 2020.

Mixed-use developments were once a tough sell in Chicago. But as the Chicago Tribune reported this week, that is no longer the case. Currently, there are no fewer than 10 massive mixed-use complexes with a price tag of at least $1 billion dollars in the pipeline. City center is the epicenter of this evolution.

Among the largest of these proposed mega-projects is a $5 billion development of a 62-acre site located along the Chicago River in the South Loop. While it remains just a vision at this point, there are others nearing completion. Among these are the 94-story Vista Tower condominium and hotel building at 375 E. Wacker Drive. Part of a $1 billion complex, Vista Tower will rise 1,186 feet upon its scheduled completion in 2020, making it the third-tallest building to grace the Chicago skyline. It will have 406 residences and a 5-star Wanda Vista Hotel.

In all, there are currently about $20 billion worth of mixed-used projects in some stage of the development process. So, why the newfound popularity of mixed-use development in Chicago? The Tribune reported such projects had proven difficult during the Windy City’s previous construction cycles. But the landscape has changed.

“Developers are emboldened by a convergence of trends, including a surge in headquarters relocations to downtown Chicago, low interest rates, years of increased real estate values, changing preferences of office and residential tenants, new zoning policies and a willingness by big funds and wealthy foreign investors to plow large chunks of cash into single, high-impact projects.”

Of course, there’s no guarantee all these ambitious projects will actually be completed. But all signs point to the Chicago skyline undergoing its first significant alteration since the 1960s and 70s.

“I think the timing is just right in Chicago,” Grant Uhlir, managing director of Gensler architectural firm’s Chicago office. “Funding is available, there’s city and community support, there’s pent-up demand and there are interested developers. It’s all aligning.