Renewable energy firm will turn old steel factory site into 20,000 new Chicago homes

On August 1, 2017, Chicago, Illinois Mayor Rahm Emanuel and Emerald Living, a green-tech development company, announced the Purchase and Sale Agreement (PSA) with U.S. Steel to acquire the derelict, 440-acre South Works property, which they will call New SouthWorks.

Emerald Living is part of WElink Group – a low-carbon technology company based in Dublin, Ireland that specializing in renewable energy delivery and low carbon modular housing solutions.

This is Emerald Living’s first signature development in the U.S.  They say that their revitalizing mission in Chicago has three core elements:

  • To create a sustainable mixed-use development that re-introduces South Chicago and creates a community that is vibrant and a healthy center of economic activity.
  • To collaborate with all stakeholders on this flagship development to help elevate all of Chicago, specifically the historic southeast side and surrounding neighborhoods.
  • To utilize technology that promotes sustainable and environmentally-friendly living, and creates an exciting community for the residents of New SouthWorks and all of Chicago.

The site will have a substantial residential component of up to 20,000 housing units built with innovative, environmentally-friendly technology pioneered by Emerald Living’s partner, Barcelona Housing Systems (BHS). “This technology provides an industrial platform for large-scale housing construction, enabling rapid site assembly with high-quality materials, while promoting green technology, environmental sustainability, and community living,” said Cesar Ramirez Martinell, founder of BHS.

Founded in 2007, the WElink Group has combined its success in renewable energy to create modern building structures and community dwellings, which are not only low-carbon and efficient in their construction, but also low-carbon and efficient in their application and operation. It has developed a range of building structures and applications including: residential living (social, affordable, and private), commercial development, student accommodation, and community and care amenities.

This agreement is a major milestone towards converting an unused stretch of land that represents Chicago’s industrial past into a vibrant community that will contribute to Chicago’s economic, cultural and recreational future,” Mayor Emanuel said. “I look forward to seeing the community’s dynamic vision for this site become a reality.”

Preliminary plans for the 440-acre site envision a mixed-use development, with opportunities for commercial retail and office spaces, taking advantage of the extensive lakeshore frontage and views of the Chicago skyline.

We are excited by the tremendous opportunity available at the South Works site and look forward to working throughout this due diligence period to determine the best path forward,” said Barry O’Neill, CEO of Emerald Living. “Over the coming months, we will be working with the city, Aldermen Sadlowski Garza and Mitchell, local community members, and other stakeholders to develop a new, exciting vision for this site and the surrounding South Chicago neighborhoods.

In December of 2016, WElink announced a £2.5 billion joint venture with a housing association, Your Housing Group, to develop 25,000 low-carbon modular homes in England.

After hours of meetings, prudence, and due diligence, we are close to completing this important first step,” said 7th Ward Alderman Greg Mitchell. “I’m looking forward to continuing the progress and bringing much needed investment and development to my community. This can be the catalyst to spark growth and create economic opportunities for the residents of the 7th Ward.

Barcelona Housing Systems (BHS) has developed an innovative housing construction technology, which by using high-quality recycled materials, solar energy and maximum energy efficiency has a significantly reduced environmental impact compared to traditional housing construction.

BHS bases much of its approach on eco-architecture, or sustainable architecture, with the aim of maximizing natural resources and creating building systems that minimize environmental impacts. Its technology is conscientious when it comes to raw materials and renewable energies, reducing the use of energy and natural resources as far as possible and minimizing waste generation. It also presents solutions for sustainable mobility in newly created urban areas.

  • Without using cement.
  • Without using water.
  • Without using bricks.
  • Almost zero waste generation.
  • Built with renewable energies.
  • High reduction of energy consumption.
  • Using solar energy to supply more than 70% of each of the homes and the common building areas.
  • AA energy rating.
  • Using recycled materials (recycled steel, wood, etc.).
  • Reducing the environmental impact of the construction process.
  • Reducing CO2 emissions by optimizing transport and logistics.
  • Reducing the environmental impact by using renewable energies and high levels of insulation.
  • Developing internal mobility systems that reduce the use of private cars.

BHS uses recycled light-guage steel framing and modern energy efficient composite materials to produce a panel based system. It specializes in modern industrialized methods which while maintaining high quality can dramatically reduce the leadtime and cost of delivery of residential properties.

The hard working men and women who were once employed on this property helped produce the steel you see everyday in the City of Chicago,” said 10th Ward Alderman Susan Sadlowski Garza. “This is an opportunity to restore that sense of pride and show off the beautiful lakefront on the southeast side to the rest of the city and the world.

Under the terms of the PSA, Emerald Living has five months to close on the sale following a period of environmental review and other due diligence required on the site.

UPDATE: On May 24, 2018, Emerald Living cancelled their plans to redevelop this site, due to a disagreement with the site’s current owner, U.S. Steel.

Aerial view of site via Google Maps.

See New SouthWorks website.

See WElink website.

See Barcelona Housing Systems website.

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