Maker Village

Title: maker village
Location: Chicago, IL
Date: 2017
Client: urban land institute (ULI HINes Competition)
Project Type: urban design
Program: City
Narrative (synopsis):

MAKER VILLAGE celebrates Chicago’s spirit of creation and innovation. Situated among the active neighborhoods of Lincoln Park and Wicker Park, the site is poised for activity. Yet, it currently sits on a quiet industrial wedge, blocked by the I-94 freeway to the west and the Chicago River to the east. By adding new bridge connections, a lively waterfront corridor, and mixed-use corridors and parks, MAKER VILLAGE will become an urban cultural center that brings production, fabrication, and art into the public eye. Most notably, it will revitalize and ignite the tech, culture, and eco maker spirit of the area.


Narrative (design + development strategy):

The urban village is designed for a broad range of tech makers, capitalizing on the city’s growth forecasts in advanced manufacturing, technology, and life sciences, and drawing on the increasing tech activity on Goose Island. The transparent facades provide a view into portions of factory floors. The cluster of community tech spaces at The Maker Incubator and The Academy create opportunities for learning, inspiration, and chance encounters. The offices at Maker Office District and the flexible laboratory spaces at the Production Lab District activate a dynamic and diverse business community. All parts of the village provide opportunities to see, connect, learn, and make.

The river is a source of inspiration for village eco makers, who can walk to the grocery store and bike to visit friends. Four new bridges enhance connectivity across the river for all modes, providing access to public parks, trails, pedestrian walkways, bikeways, and roadways. A new bicycle bridge and bicycle share stations make biking accessible and safe. Micro-apartments offer a low-impact living option for those who enjoy backyard access to lively open space parks and waterfront areas. Along the riverfront, an iconic vertical garden, The Grange, sits in a beautiful glass greenhouse. Tree-lined streets and stormwater bioswales filter water to Wetland Park. Additional public green spaces, Elston Park and Pocket Park, offer visual connectivity for those walking to the waterfront from western Wicker Park.

MAKER VILLAGE also provides numerous opportunities for culture makers to relax, eat, drink, run, play, and socialize. Development along both sides of the river pays homage to the architectural splendor of Chicago’s riverfront. On the east side, people can eat and drink at Restaurant Row or shop at The Boutiques. The Village House concert venue offers a flexible event space for concerts, theater, and community events. In the daytime, people can shop for food and trinkets at Maker Kitchen and Village Market. Next door, The Lawn offers a picnic spot for outdoor concerts or a place to throw frisbees after work. The apartments and condominiums include units for seniors, and low-and-middle-income earners, integrated with market rate residences to foster community.

Compared to the isolated nature of the current manufacturing district, Maker Village is a vibrant and connected urban center to live, work, play, and visit. The design seamlessly knits riverfront, market, and park amenities into a rich neighborhood fabric that will elevate Chicago’s opportunities for tech, culture, and eco makers.

Narrative (financing strategy):

Maker Village Development Partnership (MVDP) is a 90/10 joint venture comprised of Windy Crew Investors (WCI) and the Master Developer to develop a total of 54.3 acres. WCI will contribute its 9.2 acres to MVDP, and MVDP will purchase 21.5 acres from the City and 23.6 surrounding acres to enhance the district’s value and capture more of the value creation.

Land Acquisition. MVDP will establish option agreements with the current land owners, whereby MVDP will pay 10% of the land cost today and the remainder upon exercising its purchase option at $120 psf, which is a 4.3% premium to the recent Finkl site sale due to expectations of lower levels of contamination. The option structure allows MVDP to delay its equity contributions and flexibility to manage its development plan should market conditions change. After the project earns a 10% leveraged return, the developer will earn a 20% promote.

Phasing: The development is divided into three phases, each with mixed uses to stagger the supply of new rentable area in the market. 
In Phase I, 19.7 acres will be developed. Phase I aims to activate Maker Village by improving internal and external connectivity. Phase I development includes:

  • Development of WCI’s parcels, boosting WCI’s financial returns since WCI already owns the land.
  • The redevelopment of part of the Fleet and Facility Management Site into a community center and market where local businesses can rent stands to sell their goods, improving the community of Maker Village.
  • A state-of-the-art park with a zero-depth pool in warmer months and an ice rink in the winter.
  • Elston Park.
  • Construction of two pedestrian bridges to activate the district by strengthening its connections to Lincoln Park and the exciting developments underway at Goose Island.

In Phase II, 17.4 acres will be acquired and developed with the goal of enhancing the community at Maker Village. Highlights of Phase II include:

  • Pocket Park, bolstering Maker Village’s western entrance point to entice entrepreneurs and innovators coming from Wicker Park and I-94 to explore Maker Village.
  • A 4-lane vehicular bridge with sidewalks and bike lanes and an additional pedestrian bridge to improve accessibility to the site and reduce traffic congestion.
  • WiFi connectivity throughout Maker Village.
  • Redevelopment of the metal recycling center, improving the ambiance of the riverfront

In Phase III, 13.3 acres will be acquired and developed with the goal to improve design cohesion. Phase III includes the transformation of the Home Depot site into production space for designers and printers and other forms of light industry.

Bank Financing: A 3-year construction loan with a 65% LTC and a 4.5% interest-only fixed rate will be utilized during each phase, followed by a permanent loan with a 65% LTV and 30-year amortization at a 5% constant rate. Public Financing: MVDP will utilize grants and public sources wherever possible and financially feasible. Public funding sources will come from NMTC, the DOT TIGER grant, a TIF, and EPA Brownfields Grants.

Design Team: Alberto de Salvatierra, Christa Cunningham, Insu Kim, Roopika Subramanian, Xueyao Celine Zhou
Adviser: niall kirkwood