Chicago is enjoying an unprecedented, $10-billion building boom rivaling the new construction that followed the 1871 Chicago fire, a newly released study shows.
"An explosion of construction activity is changing the face and function of downtown," the study conducted by the Center for Urban Affairs and Policy Research at Northwestern University concluded.
Coordinated by Northwestern Prof. Louis H. Masotti, the study lists 160 public and private construction projects completed in the downtown area between 1979 and the end of 1984, plus an additional 45 buildings "in progress" and 50 more that have been proposed.
Projects completed or started in the six-year period represent an investment of $4.5 billion. But an even larger amount, about $5.6 billion, will be spent in the near future as other projects move from the drawing board into concrete.
The "downtown renaissance" tends to counter claims that political turmoil since the death of Mayor Richard J. Daley in l976, has scared investors away from Chicago, Masotti said.
"This study shows that despite all the political turmoil and uproar in the last six years, real estate people have gone about their business," Masotti said, noting that only New York is experiencing a similar building boom.
The three-year study found that since the 1871 Chicago fire, 30% of all office construction in the downtown area was completed during the period studied.
"Development has taken place here because the market is strong," Masotti said, predicting "mega-investment dollars" will feed the building boom for the foreseeable future.
Rehabilitation played a major role in the downtown building boom, largely because of favorable tax legislation enacted in 1981, the rising cost of financing, and the lower per square foot costs of rehabbed space, the study found.