Goodman, Hollis near deal with city to house migrants at West Loop loft office

Bronzeville Lakefront developer Scott Goodman and partner A.G. Hollis are nearing a deal with Chicago officials to help mitigate the city’s migrant housing crisis by repurposing a loft office building near the trendy Fulton Market District into a temporary shelter.

Mayor Brandon Johnson’s administration is in discussions to turn the five-story, 50,000-square-foot building at 344 North Ogden Avenue into a facility to accommodate the growing number of asylum seekers who have arrived in the city over the past year, Crain’s reported. Office tenants in the building, which is about 67 percent leased, have been asked to vacate the property in the coming weeks.

The move comes as Chicago grapples with a significant influx of migrants, a situation exacerbated by Texas Governor Greg Abbott’s decision to send thousands of asylum seekers to the city without local coordination. The city has been actively seeking housing solutions, including repurposing properties like the former Standard Club building in the South Loop and multiple city-run shelters.

Some real estate industry insiders are also raising the question of whether the planned Ogden shelter is a first step toward rezoning the property, which is currently designated as a Planned Manufacturing District and doesn’t allow residential development.

Should the temporary housing create a path toward putting permanent housing on the site, it would provide a redevelopment opportunity to Hollis and Goodman, who is leading the $4 billion-plus revamp of the former Michael Reese Hospital site in the Bronzeville neighborhood.

During a recent community meeting, city officials revealed that 6,828 migrants have been placed in temporary shelters in Chicago over the past year, while another 1,940 are awaiting placement in police stations or at O’Hare and Midway International Airports.

The potential transformation of the Ogden building into a shelter is being considered as office landlords face reduced demand amid the remote work trend. Yet commercial property owners in and near Fulton Market, such as 344 North Ogden, have managed to evade much of the financial pain striking their competitors in the Loop and elsewhere in the city, as West Loop office leasing momentum defied the pandemic by drawing new tenants into the neighborhood.

Details of the shelter deal, including the number of migrants it could accommodate, remain unclear, and the mayor’s office did not provide the publication with comment. It is likely that the building’s owners would need to make renovations in order for the property to be occupied as a shelter.

Alderman Walter Burnett, whose 27th Ward includes the Ogden building, is seeking community input on the proposal, although his support may not be required for the city to proceed with its plan. Johnson is scheduled to provide an update on the city’s migrant response during a virtual briefing with the city council, and is also seeking increased federal funding and expedited work permits to assist new arrivals.

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