Despite the current challenges faced by the construction industry in many US regions, experts still see surprisingly strong activity in Illinois, especially in Chicago. The city has enjoyed a surge in developments and construction projects, which can be attributed to investors and developers that move into the city, dramatically mobilizing its economy and at the same time, directly increasing the demand for commercial, residential, and other relevant structural spaces. In commercial building construction alone, the city records over $13 billion worth of market and charts one of its strongest performances in the last six years.
This article introduces the best large building developers and general contractors in Chicago. The firms included here are either based in the city or have done multiple large-scale and high-value projects in the windy city. The projects featured come from the various industries that these firms serve, including the commercial, multifamily, hospitality, industrial, medical, healthcare, civic, and government sectors. The firms were qualified based on the awards, press features, industry recognitions, and the quality and value of the developments that they have completed over the years. Our editorial team also focused on the firm’s notable works in the city and nearby cities across Illinois.
Brown & Momen Incorporated
823 E Drexel Sq., Chicago, IL 60615
Established by Ernest Brown, Brown & Momen Incorporated represents over three decades of experience in construction and development. This long history has allowed the company to develop a comprehensive understanding of the construction scene and at the same time, explore the time-tested methods that propelled its rise to the city’s list of top general contracting companies. The firm focuses on its three major services that cater to the private and public sectors in Chicago: general contracting, project management, and carpentry.
Over the years, the firm has partnered with some of the most reputable professionals in the field to complete many of Chicago’s iconic commercial, academic, and multi-residential landmarks. The firm’s large, high-value general contracting projects in the city include the five-story University of Illinois Health Ambulatory Surgery Center, the 102 one-bedroom senior living Montclare Residence located in the city’s Englewood neighborhood, and the 114,000-square-foot Columbia College-Chicago Student Center.
Many of the projects have been commended for their architectural and structural significance as well as for their nod to sustainability and energy efficiency. Its rich portfolio features projects that are recognized and accredited by USGBC’s LEED certifications. One example of its green projects was for the Chicago Com-Ed North 2 office and warehouse development. The development was awarded a LEED Platinum certification. The work involved the construction of a replacement distribution warehouse building and a new office building that houses a STEM education center.
At&T Center, 200 W Adams, Suite #1600, Chicago, IL 60606
For over 200 years, Burns McDonnell has been dominating the country’s architecture and construction industry, earning annual recognition from the biggest names in the field. In 2020 alone, the firm was among ENR’s leading companies for its different annual rankings, including the Top 100 Design-Build Firms, Top 500 Design Firms, Top 100 Green Buildings Design Firms, and Top 400 Contractors, among many others. In 2019, Building Design + Construction also selected the firm for its Giants 300 listing and secured the second spot for Military Sector Engineering, third in Airport Sector Engineering, and second in Office Sector Engineering, to name a few.
Over the years, the company has championed a client-first culture, an approach that helped the company get through some of the worst economic challenges in history, including the Great Depression. Since its inception in 1985, it has evolved from being a two-man firm into one of the most influential and highly acclaimed companies of today. The firm is now an employee-owned organization and is supported by a growing team of over 7,600 engineers, industry experts, designers, architects, and scientists, to deliver a comprehensive practice that caters to the highest and most technical demands of a wide array of industries.
The firm’s portfolio currently features projects completed for the aviation industry, oil industry, commercial, retail, institutional, environmental, government, transportation, and telecommunication sectors. In Chicago, the company leads several large-scale architecture, construction, engineering, and consulting ventures for those same markets.
216 South Jefferson St., Suite 502, Chicago, IL 60661
What started as a small, local excavation company turned into one of the biggest and most established civil construction firms in the country. Clark Construction has been serving a wide spectrum of industries since 1906. That includes the aviation, correctional, education, healthcare, government, hospitality, and industrial sectors, among many others. Its award-winning projects are constant recipients of industry awards, including the prestigious AGC California Constructor Award, the 2020 Washington Business Journal Best Real Estate Deal Awards, Best New Development category, and the 2020 ENR MidAtlantic Regional Best Project Award, Best Cultural/Worship Project category, to name just a few.
From its headquarters in Maryland, the company expands its services to other major US states, including Illinois. In recent years, it has greatly contributed to the shape of Chicago’s urban landscape. One of the firm’s largest projects in the city is the iconic 150 North Riverside, a 1.2 million square feet, 54-story office building that dramatically transformed the city’s riverfront. The work was a partnership with Goettsch Partners, Inc. and was designed to adhere to USGBC’s LEED Gold accreditation and the organization’s stringent sustainability standards. The tower’s green design covers highly energy-efficient capabilities, maximized access to air and natural light, and provided a 100 percent green roof.
The firm led the project’s preconstruction, sustainability, virtual design, and construction teams. Completed in 2017, the work caught the attention of the design and building community and earned multiple recognitions, including the Chicago Commercial Real Estate Awards, Development of the Year category, the 2018 Urban Land Institute Chicago Vision Award, and the Building Design + Construction’s Building Team Awards, Platinum Award. Most importantly, this extensive development created over 1,500 construction jobs in the city.
100 S Wacker, Suite #2100, Chicago, IL 60606
Focus is a Chicago-based developer and general contractor, that since 1993, has utilized an integrated delivery model to produce a diverse portfolio of distinctive real estate. Their vertically integrated approach uniquely aligns development and construction to create places and spaces for people to experience a better life. The company has an extensive portfolio that includes notable commercial, residential, and hospitality projects for the region’s most sophisticated developers and investors, including AEW, AIMCO, Carlyle and Principal, just to name a few. These works, and many others, have been recipients of several industry awards in recent years, such as the HBAGC Crystal Key Award, Excellence in Masonry Award, and a spot in the finals for ULI’s past Vision Awards.
Since Tim Anderson founded the company in 1993, it has delivered an extensive list of large-scale and high-value construction projects throughout the region. These works are known for their performance and their ability to blend seamlessly with their surrounding urban and architectural context. These characteristics can be observed across the firm’s portfolio and are inherent in their approach to every project.
One example of the firm’s approach is on display at recent Chicago project 167 Green Street, located in the city’s vibrant Fulton Market. Focus led the project as its general contractor and co-developer alongside development partner Shapack Partners and award-winning firm, Gensler, as the project architect. The project involved the development and construction of a 17-story office building that features modern, high-end amenities on its top floor: a lounge, a fitness facility, as well as an outdoor rooftop area that features a patio and fire pits, and a full basketball court. The entire development covers a total of 750,023-square-feet. The places + spaces the company brings to life reflect a dedication to impact lives, enhance communities, build value + control the risk of innovation.
Gilbane Building Company
123 N Wacker Drive, 26th Floor, Chicago, IL 60606
From its Rhode Island headquarters, Gilbane Building Company extends its services throughout the country, with locations and offices that offer the same quality, efficiency, and consistency that the award-winning firm is known for. As an answer to the growing construction scene in the Midwest, the company established its presence in Chicago, a strategic base located at the center of the region’s developments.
Named by Crain’s Chicago Business as one of its Top 15 Contractors in the city and recognized by Chicagoland AGC’s Safety Recognition Award, the firm offers a long list of comprehensive delivery methods that cater to the different levels and complexity of every project. The firm has also established partnerships with a diverse spectrum of investors and developers of more than 16 sectors in the area. One of the firm’s most significant contributions to Chicagoland is a state-of-the-art hospital that will provide a transformative and modern healing space for the region’s present and future generations.
Commissioned by the University of Chicago Medicine, the Center for Care and Discovery is a 1.2 million-square-foot, LEED Silver-accredited facility that was completed in 39 months. The new building provides a much-needed expansion that can accommodate the rise in the university’s need for modern and high-performing facilities for medical, surgical, intensive care, and other specific services. A stunning sight, the medical center was designed by renowned architect Rafael Viñoly to complement the campus’s existing architecture context.
309 S Green St., Chicago, IL 60607
Since Linn-Mathes Inc.’s inception over 100 years ago, it has consistently ranked among the leading residential and commercial general contractors in the country. In Chicago, the company is one of the professionals that dominate the construction scene, with multi-awarded projects recognized by the AIA, National Housing & Rehabilitation Association, the Urban Land Institute (ULI) Chicago, and the Congress for New Urbanism, to name a few. The firm is a local leader that has delivered many modern and timeless structures in the city, many of which have transformed and enhanced the lives of the city’s local and urban communities.
The company led the construction of the City Hyde Park, a modern, mixed-use facility designed by Studio Gang Architects for real estate developer 1525 HP LLC. The project, unique for its stunning concrete panel design, was completed in 2016. The development is ideally located in Chicago’s most dynamic and popular urban neighborhoods, an important social context that was strategically considered in the design and construction of the building. The 14-story property houses 180 units of living spaces and was built with 350-space parking. The first two levels of the building house retail spaces, while other areas feature modern amenities, such as a study area, a party room, a lounge, and a green roof with outdoor seating.
As a company that specializes in residential and mixed-use construction, the company has built an extensive portfolio of remodeling projects and ground-up building projects for the multifamily market. Aside from Hyde Park, the firm also completed several works across the city, many of which have been a part of its urban landscape: the 221 West Hubbard, the Solstice on the Park, and the 165 W Superior Exhibit on Superior buildings. Multi-awarded works for other sectors also dominate its overall portfolio. The Buffett Place, for instance, won the 2015 Richard H. Driehaus Award for Architectural Excellence in Community Design, first place. The Harvest Commons also earned the same award from the same organization during the previous year.
1737 South Michigan Ave., Chicago, IL 60616
As one of the most influential general contracting companies in Chicago, McHugh is responsible for the construction of seven out of the ten tallest skyscrapers in the city. Its impressive portfolio of large developments highlights its green building practices and 80 percent of its works are accredited by the USGBC’s different LEED certifications. The firm was established in 1897 and is now on its fourth generation of ownership. Its century-plus of experiences has allowed it to establish long term relationships with developers and investors, and 80 percent of its past and present projects come from repeat businesses.
One example of the firm’s projects in the city is 73 East Lake Street. The building is a LEED Gold certified property and a product of a collaboration with architect Solomon Cordwell Buenz. The two firms completed 530,000-square-feet of multi-residential property for M&R Development. The project involved the construction of the 42-story building that accommodates 332 rental spaces of studios and two-bedroom units, as well as 178 indoor parking units. These residential units feature fully equipped kitchens, designer baths, luxury light fixtures, high-end finishes, and the latest energy-efficient appliances, including full-sized washers and dryers.
Some of the highlights of the project can be found on the ninth and tenth floors: luxury details such as indoor pools, sauna and steam rooms, an oversized spa, a fitness area, yoga and pilates sections, a game room, a cyber cafe, and a theater room, to name a few. The project also features a green roof and its 2,000-square-foot event room on its rooftop deck, with an 18-foot ceiling to expand the space. Outdoor cabanas and a grilling area expand the space to accommodate more guests.
1700 West Higgins Rd., Des Plaines, IL 60018
Established after the end of the second world war, Missner Group is one of the most enduring companies in the country, it has gone through quite the transformation—from a small firm led by architect and founder Irving Missner—into one of the largest construction, development, and asset management companies in the US. The firm is now on its third generation of principals, led by Missner’s grandsons, Barry and Glen Missner. Across the country, the firm continues to dominate the construction and real estate industry through partnerships with the leading entities in the field, the same collaborations that helped it win a long list of industry accolades.
In Illinois, for instance, the firm partnered with AMB Property Corporation to complete the Coaster Company of America’s distribution center. The company led the project’s construction team to build the renowned furniture distributor’s largest facility in Des Plaines, located at the heart of the O’Hare Market. The 253,000-square-foot building that houses a large workspace and showroom, went on to win NAIOP’s Development of the Year Award, Award for Excellence.
In Chicago, the firm also built the First Ascent Climbing and Fitness building. The 25,000-square-foot facility caters to the local climbing community of the city. Included in the build are a 60-foot high climbing area, a 5,000 square feet of stand-alone bouldering section, a yoga studio, as well as a 7,000-square-foot mezzanine training center and a fitness area. Aside from these structures, the center accommodates spaces for a cafe, a pro-shop, locker room areas, and other community spaces for tenants and patrons alike.
3423 N Drake Ave., Chicago, IL 60618
Headquartered in Chicago, Novak Construction expands its preconstruction, general construction, and construction management services across the country. As a licensed general contractor, the firm has completed an overwhelming list of construction projects not just in Illinois but also in over 30 other states. It has maintained lifelong partnerships with some of the biggest names in retail: Target, Walmart, Costco, and Whole Foods, a testament to its consistently reliable, high-quality services. The company rakes in annual revenue of over $250 million, a big portion of which comes from repeat businesses. Aside from its solid commercial clientele, the firm is also responsible for some of Chicago’s high-value multi-residential spaces.
Located in Lincoln Park, Chicago, the 2050 N. Clark is a 57,000-square-foot luxury apartment building that the firm completed in recent years. The firm led its general contracting efforts and to design this urban development, it partnered with Fitzgerald Associates Architects. As part of the company’s comprehensive services, it also took on the project estimation, value engineering, and the coordination of permits.
The project involved the ground-up construction of a five-level building that can house 32 units of residential spaces categorized into one to three-bedroom units. Many of these units feature private balconies. The interiors were completed with high-end finishes and equipped with modern appliances. The firm also constructed an indoor parking space as well as a bicycle parking space. One of the challenging aspects of this build is the location and relevant logistical challenges that came with it, considering that the building is located in a tight, urban space. The firm successfully resolved it and executed the solution without compromising the timeline and cost goals of the project.
643 N Orleans St., Chicago, IL 60654
Under the leadership of Stan Pepper, Pepper Construction believes that the future of construction is pointed in the direction of innovation, sustainability, resiliency, and performance. For this reason, the firm’s practice has revolved around expanding its services and exploring every facet of the construction process. The firm’s extensive list of services includes lean construction, MEP coordination, quality and safety management, virtual design and construction, as well as other delivery methods that employ the use of environmental technologies and sustainable practices. This approach is reflected in many of its works.
One of its projects in Chicago that represents its quality as a general contractor is the 5050 N Broadway project. This work for Cedar Street Companies was a joint effort between the firm and Booth Hansen, a Chicago-based architectural firm known for its innovative design practices. Combined with the company’s comprehensive delivery methods and transparent and highly collaborative signature, the pair produced a revitalization project that transformed an old, outdated 1950s office structure into a sleek, high-performing, and sustainable multifamily building, inspired by the timeless sophistication of mid-century modern architecture.
Aside from its apartment units, the building now houses co-working spaces, retail spaces, bars, restaurants, a theater house, and other amenities such as an outdoor pool, a fitness center, and a courtyard. The completed work provides a modern living and working environment for Chicago’s families and young professionals and brings a fresher, more updated look to the surrounding urban environment. Upon its completion, the project caught the attention of the construction industry and won a number of commendations and accreditations, including the Green Globe awards.
1330 W Fulton Market, Suite #200, Chicago, IL 60607
Collaboration, simplicity, and efficiency: these are the characteristics that make Skender one of the most preferred general contracting companies in the region. In the firm’s six decades of practice, it has relied on its loyal team of industry experts, collaborated with leading architectural firms in the country, and partnered with the most accomplished developers in the industry. As a result, it has delivered some of the most transformative landmarks in Illinois. Its overall list of completed works come from complex and highly demanding sectors, including healthcare, lab sciences, higher education, senior living, affordable housing, retail, multifamily, and hospitality.
Justin Brown leads the company as its president and CEO. Under Brown’s guidance, the company focused on its strategic growth to expand its services to include preconstruction, planning, design-build, project management, sustainability, and consulting expertise. The firm’s rich background in construction and its active role in the industry as a member of the AGC, NAIOP, and USGBC, allowed it to develop a comprehensive delivery method that makes use of the latest in design and construction technologies. The result is a cutting-edge, cost-effective, and highly efficient building practice, capable of producing large-scale developments for the most sophisticated and demanding clients.
In recent years, the firm collaborated with architectural firm ESA to take on the new construction project for Sterling Bay’s Hyatt House. The firm primarily led the project’s base building and interior construction management efforts to deliver a 167,000-square-foot structure designed to house hotel rooms, retail spaces, multiple green roof areas, a fitness center, a main lounge, and other amenities strategically located on the different levels of the 14-story building. The firm has also completed several other projects for the same sector. Its clients from the hospitality industry include the Boka Restaurant Group for their Swift & Sons development and the SOHO House’s Chicago location.
Summit Design + Build, LLC
1036 W Fulton Market, Suite #500, Chicago, IL 60607
Since the company’s founding 15 years ago, Summit Design + Build has greatly contributed to building some of the most talked-about landmarks in the hospitality, entertainment, industrial, institutional, medical, multifamily, restaurant, and retail industry. These successful projects have helped the company to secure a consistent place on ENR’s Midwest and Southeast Top Contractors rankings. In recent years, the company has also won several NAIOP awards, ULI Chicago Vision awards, and other HBA Greater Chicago recognition.
As a builder, the firm understands the value of producing sustainable and energy-efficient structures. As part of its commitment to the green building movement, it offers a specialized construction method to complete LEED-certified facilities and other projects that adhere to USGBC’s sustainability standards. This excellence in construction coupled with its advocacy for green design completes the vision of the firm’s founder, Adam Miller. A vision that has long been a part of the firm’s foundation since its inception in 2005.
As a leading general contracting company that takes on large scale building projects in Chicago, the company has completed several landscapes that continue to represent the quality and ability that the firm has to offer. Our editorial team was taken with the 78,000-square-foot 400 Monroe boutique condominium. The project involved the new construction of a seven-story multi-residential building that accommodates 42 units, a tenant storage area, a bike room, and onsite parking. The project was designed to cater to the modern needs of its occupants and at the same time, serve as an urban residential abode to young professionals and families looking to settle in this dynamic part of the city.
929 West Adams St., Chicago, IL 60607
Now on its fourth generation, Walsh Group is a family-owned and operated company that has been providing the industry with innovative and efficient design, construction, development, and management services since its founding in 1898. The firm currently has 20 locations across North America and is represented by three major companies: Walsh Construction, Archer Western, and Walsh Canada. The overall portfolio from these companies has earned the firm an overwhelming list of accolades, including claiming top stops from several ENR annual rankings, as well as securing recognition for their works in safety, restoration, construction, and sustainability.
As a large building general contractor that serves Chicago and other major cities in Illinois, the firm opened its doors for construction projects in the city in 1949. High-rise residential buildings for a wide range of sectors dominate the firm’s extensive, high-value portfolio. These projects are not only commended for their architectural boldness but are also celebrated for their commitment to sustainability and green design. LEED-certified buildings and projects recognized by the USGBC are included in its campaign for a more energy-efficient and environmentally responsible future in construction.
The firm is also responsible for the revitalization of some of Chicago’s prized historic urban landmarks. GE Asset Management, for instance, commissioned the company to complete the restoration of the Heritage at Millenium Park located at the heart of downtown Chicago. The project contract, valued at $169,000,000, was a collaboration with a leading architectural firm, Solomon Cordwell Buenz. Given its cultural significance and historic value, the company coordinated with the city’s Landmark Division to deliver a modern mixed-use structure that provides the functionality needed for modern living and working, while respecting the building’s historic legacy.