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Less housing, more retail in Rosenwald remix

The historic Rosenwald Apartments 4600 S. Michigan Avenue Tuesday October 18 2011. |  John H. White~Sun-Times.

The historic Rosenwald Apartments at 4600 S. Michigan Avenue, Tuesday, October 18, 2011. | John H. White~Sun-Times.

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Updated: November 4, 2012 6:22AM

Sometimes, life is all about adjustments. In Chicago’s Bronzeville area, Ald. Pat Dowell (3rd) and developers have agreed on adjusted terms for the redevelopment — really a rebirth — of the landmark Rosenwald Apartments building at 4600 S. Michigan.

If they can pull it off, it will have enormous impact. But the Rosenwald is huge, neglected and defies easy answers. The project also appears to have a thin margin for financial error.

Dowell a week ago unveiled to constituents revised parameters for the development to be undertaken by a team whose members include Landwhite Developers LLC, Jim Bergman and Lighten-Gale Group. “I heard from a lot from people about the need for more retail and a desire to see the density of the building reduced,” she said.

So the new agreement calls for 235 rental units, instead of the planned 331, and 75,000 square feet of commercial space, up from 21,000 square feet. Senior housing would make up 138 of the units and most of them would have subsidized rents or be available for Chicago Housing Authority tenants.

The revisions, including the high proportion of senior units, are intended to appease critics. Dowell has been on a mission to revive the Rosenwald, but many of the property’s neighbors said the area can’t tolerate a dense new development when it lacks social services and suffers from crime.

The Rosenwald has to be seen to be appreciated. It’s a five-story building stretching a full city block and enclosing a two-acre private courtyard. Built in 1929 by philanthropist Julius Rosenwald in an idealistic try at housing for the poor, it later became a slum and has been abandoned for 12 years. Dowell said the “hulking building” has been a blight on three busy streets: 47th, Michigan and Wabash.

Due to be proposed to the City Council on Wednesday is an allocation to the Rosenwald of $5 million in federal Neighborhood Stabilization Program funds. It’s also in line for $25 million in city tax-increment financing subsidies. The overall project is listed as having a $109 million budget, $45 million of it drawn from tax credits for renovating a historic structure.

A year ago, Landwhite partner David Roos estimated the work could cost $170 million. Roos could not be reached Tuesday. If his earlier estimate is correct, the Rosenwald will need a 21st century idealist with money.

FIELDS OF DREAMS: Dan McCaffery, chairman of McCaffery Interests Inc., perhaps has the busiest strategic planning practice of any local development firm, what with his interest in the former South Works property on the South Side lakefront and in the Children’s Memorial Hospital site in Lincoln Park, where he’s negotiating with community groups and the alderman. McCaffery also is working on the Roosevelt Collection retail and residential site at the northeast corner of Roosevelt and Wells.

All that hasn’t prevented him from taking a stab at another large city site, the old Marshall Field’s warehouse at 4000 W. Diversey. Field’s successor, Macy’s Inc., is selling the property through broker Jones Lang LaSalle Inc.

McCaffery said Jones Lang asked him to examine the property for its potential. “It’s a gorgeous old building but it’s not easy to modify,” he said. The deep, dark floors are analogous to those of the old Main Chicago Post Office.

He said retail space might work on the lower floors, but filling the upper floors of the building, which has five- and six-story sections, would be a stretch. Lofts are unlikely to work, McCaffery said, adding that he’s exploring some type of institutional use, such as a school.

The property contains 1.4 million square feet. It includes 4.6 acres that are undeveloped along the south side of Diversey.

HOUSING DEAL: The Cogsville Group LLC, a private-equity firm in New York, has purchased from Fannie Mae 94 single-family homes in the Chicago area that it will fix up and rent out. The sale is worth $11.8 million and creates a joint venture in which Fannie Mae will retain an interest.

The properties are scattered from the city’s South Side north to the Wisconsin border. Fannie Mae said the purchase price is about 86 percent of a recent appraisal.

DOING THE DEALS: After 14 years as a sublease tenant at 200 E. Randolph, Aon PLC completed a 15-year direct lease for the 396,000 square feet it occupies at the tower that carries its name. It takes effect December 2013. Jones Lang LaSalle Inc. and Studley Inc. handled negotiations. . . . GE Transportation, part of General Electric Co., leased 54,000 square feet on the 23rd and 24th floors of 500 W. Monroe to support its move to Chicago from Erie, Pa. Jones Lang LaSalle Inc. and Cushman & Wakefield Inc. were the brokers. . . . EN Engineering leased 84,000 square feet in a newly renovated office building at 28100 Torch Parkway, Warrenville, where it will move its headquarters from Woodridge. Newmark Grubb Knight Frank and J.F. McKinney & Associates were the brokers. . . . Brightstar Corp. leased 48,000 square feet at 850 Technology Way, Libertyville, a deal that also involved Newmark.

David Roeder reports on real estate at 6:22 p.m. Thursdays on WBBM-AM (780) and WBBM-FM (105.9). The reports are repeated at 10:22 p.m. Thursday and 7:22 a.m. Sunday.

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