Presidential Towers, a $470 million apartment development located in a once-derelict section of Chicago's West Loop, will undergo a major retail renovation. Chicago-based Northern Realty Group will redevelop the ground and second-floor levels of the 2,346-unit apartment complex.

“When Presidential Towers went into service about 20 years ago, it was a virtual island among vacant buildings, parking lots and crumbling infrastructure,” says Northern Realty Group president Bruce Kaplan. The complex of four, 50-storytowers was built in the mid-1980s. “At the time it was logical for the original developer to turn the shops and restaurant spaces inward through a system of interior corridors.”

The result was a labyrinth of enclosed retail storefronts. None of them faced the street, adds Kaplan. The new retail plan for the complex calls for opening up much of the space so that it is easily accessible from the street. Nearly 90% of the retail space in the Presidential Towers complex is leased.

In April, Chicago-based apartment investment firm Waterton Associates teamed up with the California State Teachers' Retirement System to buy the Presidential Towers complex for nearly $500 million. The new owners say it's still too early to gauge how much the retail renovation will cost as of mid-November.