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Theodore J. Novak

Theodore J. Novak

Retired Partner
Chair, Land Use, Development and Government Relations Practice

Ted Novak is one of the country's most highly regarded real estate and land use attorneys.

Ted has been instrumental in the acquisition, disposition, condemnation, rezoning and development of all types of property. He has extensive experience with administrative, legislative and judicial processes. His vast litigation experience in trial courts includes arguing before the Illinois Supreme and appellate courts on numerous occasions. He has handled some of the most significant and controversial real estate and land use projects in the Midwest.

Ted's client list is extensive and includes the largest stock exchange listed companies as well as individual property owners and developers.

Ted has been involved in DLA Piper's Management and Policy Committees for nearly three decades.

Bar admissionsIllinois
CourtsUnited States District Court for the Northern District of Illinois


Representative Development Projects
  • Representing GRIT Chicago, a joint venture including Fairpoint Development, Chicago Neighborhood Initiatives and Draper and Kramer, in the redevelopment of the 49-acre site of the former Michael Reese Hospital in Chicago's Bronzeville, close to downtown on the lakefront. The project involves a multitude of stakeholders, property acquisition from the City of Chicago and the Metropolitan Pier and Exposition Authority, approval of a master plan and ongoing approvals in subsequent phases, as well as significant infrastructure development.  Development costs are anticipated to exceed US$300 million
  • Representation of Draper and Kramer, owner of the last undeveloped properties on the Chicago lakefront, prominently located on Lake Shore Drive overlooking Lake Michigan. Our work included obtaining land use approvals to develop an ultra-luxury rental apartment building, involving extensive negotiations with hundreds of objectors, among them a multitude of condominium associations and community and civic groups. Negotiations ultimately arrived at approval of all government entitlements
  • Engaged by Crescent Heights, a national real estate firm based in Miami that has acquired vacant development parcels in Chicago's Central Station redevelopment project area. We are involved in ongoing zoning and land use matters with the City of Chicago. The project includes a pair of residential towers designed by Rafael Vinoly, approximately 829' and 900' tall, along the southern border of Grant Park. Construction of the first tower has commenced
  • Involved in approval of entitlements for development of a full city block adjacent to Chicago's Holy Name Cathedral as a mixed-use development of more than 1.5 million square feet, featuring 869 residential units as well as retail, office, spa, parking and Cathedral-related assembly uses, set in a base building with two towers of 1,011 and 654 feet. The former will be Chicago's sixth-largest building. The project, adjacent to a major transit stop, takes advantage of transit-oriented development rules to increase floor areas and reduce onsite parking
  • Representation of 601W Companies in its ongoing efforts to redevelop the blighted 2.5 million square foot Old Main Post Office in Chicago. Among the unique features of the site is that both an eight-lane federal expressway and a regional passenger rail line, including passenger platforms, run through the building. After circumventing an eminent domain action, we are involved in ongoing zoning, building code, property tax incentive, historic tax credit and historic rehabilitation matters involving the City of Chicago, Amtrak, the National Park Service, the Illinois Historic Preservation Agency and other regulatory authorities as the project moves through a three-phase renovation. Most recently, we obtained the largest Class L tax incentive in the history of the State of Illinois in connection with the redevelopment
  • Representation of Morton Salt, owner of an industrial facility in Chicago's North Brand Industrial Corridor, in repositioning the property for disposition and redevelopment, including creative solutions for preserving brand recognition rights and drafting and negotiating a sale agreement, leases and related documents for redevelopment and partial leaseback of the property
  • Representation of the owner of the Willis Tower (formerly the Sears Tower) in obtaining land use approvals and redevelopment of the multi-level retail and entertainment base, with demolition and building additions both above and below grade. We negotiated a creative strategy that allowed the client to avoid the significant costs it would have incurred under a change in Chicago's zoning ordinance which was announced during the project design phase
  • Advised the University of Chicago on zoning and land use matters relating to the Obama Presidential Library bid
  • Involved in ongoing zoning and land use matters aiming to implement the Centennial Plan strategic framework to redevelop Chicago's Navy Pier, the most popular tourist destination in the Midwestern US
  • Obtained land use approvals and entitlements to proceed with construction of a new British School on land adjacent to the Roosevelt Collection mixed-use lifestyle center in Chicago's South Loop. Our work included drafting a complex amendment to the planned development scheme and overcoming significant community opposition
  • Representation of Sandz Development in the adaptive re-use and redevelopment of the former Lincoln Park Hospital in Chicago. Ted led the development team in obtaining zoning approvals from the City of Chicago. The project met with significant, highly organized opposition, including opposition from a newly elected alderman who, upon taking office, introduced ordinances to revoke zoning approvals and impose a liquor moratorium on the property. We successfully obtained deferral of these adverse actions, guided the client's building permit strategy to vest zoning rights, resolved issues with the new alderman and negotiated a settlement of the lawsuit challenging the project's zoning approvals
  • Representation of a prominent developer in obtaining all zoning and land use approvals for a major condominium-hotel on the Chicago River that is the among the tallest high-rises in Chicago. The 2.4 million square foot development includes office, condominium, retail and significant open space and public plaza components. In addition, DLA Piper represented the developer in all attendant real estate matters
  • J.D., Chicago-Kent College of Law, Illinois Institute of Technology 1967
  • B.S., University of Illinois at Chicago 1962


  • Chambers USA
    2021 - Star Individual, Illinois Real Estate: Zoning/Land Use
    2014-20 - Star Individual, Illinois Real Estate: Zoning/Land Use
    2011-13 - Band 1, Illinois Real Estate: Zoning/Land Use
  • The Legal 500 United States
    2021 - Leading Lawyer, Land Use / Zoning
    2018-20 - Leading Lawyer, Land Use / Zoning
    2012-17 - Recommended, Land Use / Zoning

News Overview

The Chicago Sun-Times reported that a zoning deal concerning plans to develop the old Lincoln Park Hospital site in Chicago had won initial approval from the Chicago Plan Commission despite aldermanic opposition. Reporter Dave Roeder noted, "[a]s a historical note, this project is the third example of a zoning deal winning initial approval despite aldermanic opposition. The only other recent case was the proposal, yet unrealized, for a Chicago Children's Museum in Grant Park. The zoning lawyer for that deal and the Lincoln Park Hospital site is Ted Novak of the firm DLA Piper. Other zoning lawyers probably wish he would bottle his secrets and sell them."

Teaching Experience

  • Lecturer, University of Chicago Law School, "Land Use, Zoning and Condemnation" (2000 – present)
  • Adjunct Professor, Northwestern University School of Law, "Land Use, Zoning and Condemnation" (1998 – 2010)

Memberships And Affiliations

  • American Bar Association
  • Illinois State Bar Association
  • Lambda Alpha International, Ely Chapter (an honorary land economics society)
  • Urban Land Institute, multidisciplinary real estate forum
  • American College of Real Estate Lawyers
  • The Economic Club of Chicago

Ted is the only member of the American College of Real Estate Lawyers in the Midwest who concentrates on land use, development, public incentive and condemnation matters.