Developer plans affordable housing on more than 100 vacant lots in Chicago, using modular construction

Ryan Ori, Chicago Tribune on

Published in Business News

CHICAGO -- The developer Sterling Bay plans to build affordable housing on more than 100 vacant lots on Chicago's South and West sides, as the developer known for larger and glitzier projects takes a crack at Chicago's affordable housing shortage.

The plan is part of a broader effort, led by Chicago construction firm Skender, to manufacture sections of buildings on an assembly line in the Little Village area.

If successful, the venture could help offset the dearth of affordable housing in Chicago, as well as another longstanding shortage in the city: skilled construction labor.

Already one of the busiest developers in Chicago, Sterling Bay said it plans more than 100 residential buildings in Chicago constructed with huge, factory-built pieces in the next few years. Most of the buildings will be affordable three-flats on vacant lots on the West and South sides, which the developer is in the process of acquiring from the city and other owners.

Sterling Bay also is investing in Skender's modular business, and the firms said they plan to ramp up production in the Southwest Side factory in the coming years.

Modular construction involves creating large, prebuilt sections of buildings in a factory, and then assembling them at a construction site.


"It's at the tipping point and I think you're going to see it absolutely explode," Sterling Bay CEO Andy Gloor said of the modular building industry.

The factory begins operating Tuesday.

Construction using modules is more common in Europe and Asia but has been just a blip in the U.S. construction industry.

Skender believes the concept's time has come, though.


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