Central Station - The Evolution of a Great Neighborhood

News Release, April 2, 2007

Chicago has become one of the nation's greatest cities, in part because of its prime location along Lake Michigan. Lakefront property has always been prized real and thanks to several model citizens, Chicagoans today continue to enjoy all the value and splendor of the lakefront.

Beginning with A. Montgomery Ward, whose persistence and dedication saved what would later be known as Grant Park, and Daniel Burnham, Chicago's architect and city planner, the development of Chicago's lakefront has been a significant historical progression for the city and continues to remain so today.

The 1800s marked an important era for railroads in America, and the Illinois Central Railroad played a major part in defining Chicago as a world-class city. Built in 1893, the railroad's Central Station was the center of all activity in the 80-plus acres comprised of a thriving receiving yard and train depot. This was the only property that was not included in Burnham's 1909 Plan for the City of Chicago. Central Station flourished as the hub of commercial and social activity until 1972 when all train service was moved to Union Station. By early 1974 it was completely empty and remained so up until the 1980s. The area was a vast parcel of abandoned land and air rights along railroad tracks.

In 1988, Jerry Fogelson, the chairman of Fogelson Properties, was contacted regarding the sale of 69 acres of property and air rights in Chicago's South Loop. In June 1989, a formal closing took place and the Illinois Central Railroad deeded the property to the Central Station Limited Partnership, marking the beginning of what would grow to be a multi-billion dollar real estate complex and Chicago's largest new community. Teaming with Cleveland-based Forest City Enterprises along with several architects, builders, designers and real estate professionals, Fogelson's vision began its transformation into a reality.

Fogelson continued to establish relationships with various developers, and Central Station began filling up with condominiums, townhouses, and the corresponding infrastructure. Sales progressed, plans were revised, and additional property was purchased. Fogelson's development continued to grow and continues to expand today.

Reasons for Success
The extraordinary success of Central Station did not happen overnight; it's been an evolving process over the past 18 years and has been the result of numerous key factors, according to Fogelson.

The developers were determined to find the best use for the 80 acres in a way that benefited both future residents and the city. This was the beginning that inspired the Central Station master plan. Fogelson describes it as "more like designing a small city than a neighborhood. In order to not only give residents the best possible quality of life but beautify the entire area, every last detail had to be considered, examined and approved." By creating a guideline plan, it enabled the development to have flexibility, which long-term projects require to ensure success.

Central Station's prime location has also been a key factor in its success, according to Fogelson. Located along the spectacular lakefront, adjoining Grant Park and Michigan Avenue and adjacent to McCormick Place, it has achieved harmony with the park and the lake, and serves as an enduring extension of the vital downtown and lakefront area.

"Being so close to so much is what makes this such a great neighborhood. Residents have an infinite number of choices for recreation, dining, shopping and entertainment. No other location offers so much."

In addition to being situated in the best location in Chicago, the homes at Central Station offer something that no one else can guaranteed unobstructed views.

"Homebuyers are actually issued a deed at the time of closing that guarantees they will have nothing blocking their view ever," explains Fogelson. "That's very important to a lot of people. Too often people purchase an expensive condo with exceptional views only to find out a year or two later that another high-rise is going up across that street. Not only is their view gone but so is the majority of their investment."

Another significant aspect that continues to attract buyers to Central Station is the product availability. Central Station has something for everyone, ranging from spacious town homes and luxurious penthouses to chic lofts and high-rise condominiums.

"No matter what someone is looking for and at what price, we have it," says Fogelson. "It's important to be able to attract a wide-range of people."

Yet no matter what type of residence is sought, buyers are able to experience exactly what they will be getting via the multimillion-dollar sales center, complete with full-scale models and pictures of views from high-rises that are not even built yet.

Central Station's on-site design team, dedicated to assisting each homeowner in the personalization of their home, is another exceptional benefit to this extraordinary development. "We're the only community that has a staff of professional designers that for no extra charge, will work with each individual buyer and help them make the right selections for their home."

Residents at Central Station have grown to depend on not only the quality of the product itself but also the developers. "We're a very experienced group of people with a great track record and an impeccable reputation," says Fogelson. "We zealously guard it by continually giving the people what they want and treating them right."

A Challenging Road
According to Fogelson, anyone who has ever built a home has stories they could tell things that go wrong, arrangements that fall through, stops and starts, and alterations made along the way. Imagine that multiplied by an entire community. Every success story has challenges that must be overcome and Central Station was no exception. As the first major development of this kind in the area, the developers were faced with the public's negative opinion of the South Loop. At that time, many people perceived it as nothing more than a run-down area consisting of abandoned railroad yards - certainly not a desirable place to live. This further added to the importance of the careful planning and considerations that went into developing the master plan. If a very attractive product was built and succeeded, the developers knew they could affirm the desirability and the livability of this location. Their theory was correct.

The public wasn't the only critic who doubted the area's worthiness several banks in Chicago refused to lend on the property without significant guarantees. So in order to finance the property, Central Station Development Corporation approached the Hokkaido Takushoku Bank in Tokyo, which had worked with Forest City previously, and obtained the crucial monies.

Nevertheless, even after receiving the necessary funding and the plans were approved by the city, the developers were faced with one more unexpected hurdle. As the infrastructure work got underway, the national economy, including the real estate market, went into a recession. Construction delays and high interest rates caused significant additional expenses. However, despite these setbacks, the first two developments, Harbor Square and Park Row, were a success. Sales continued to increase steadily as construction on new projects, including Museum Park, Prairie Tower and Grant Park Towers, progressed.

"We battled many obstacles over the years, but we overcame them by never giving up, finding new and alternative solutions for problems and using our energies and monies to ride out the difficult times. We met our challenges head on, and the end result has been phenomenal."

Central Station Today
Today with a population of several thousand residents, Central Station enjoys an unparalleled reputation as the city's premier lakefront neighborhood. Offering luxury townhomes, high-rise loft condominiums, rental apartments and retail space, it is one of the largest urban mixed-use developments in the nation. One of the most exciting ideas about Central Station is that there is still more to come. Fogelson expects to continue selling and building until 7,500 units plus retail are completed, at a value in excess of $5 billion.

"There's a reason why thousands continue to buy at Central Station, why we continue to outperform others and get the highest quality ratings. Central Station has a combination of features that no other neighborhood in Chicago can offer: cultural amenities, spectacular views, proximity to the lake and Loop, master planning to limit density and incredible access to transportation."