110 North Wacker Ready to Go Vertical, Welcome Chicago Sparrows

The Wacker Drive canyon is about to get a new cliff.  Gound-level foundation work is underway at 110 North Wacker, after weeks of demolition, clearing, and caisson work.

110 North Wacker under construction (Courtesy of Loop Spy Chris)

110 North Wacker under construction (Courtesy of Loop Spy Chris)

Loop Spy Chris drilled a few recent pictures into our tip line showing work over the last few days.  You can see concrete being poured on the south end of the worksite, topping rebar from the caissons sticking out of the ground in nice, square trenches.  It’s a sandbox dream.

110 North Wacker under construction (Courtesy of Loop Spy Chris)

110 North Wacker under construction (Courtesy of Loop Spy Chris)

Further north, you can see the caissons getting closer together as the site narrows, constrained by both the Chicago River and Wacker Drive.  In spite of this constraint, the 45-foot-wide public riverwalk will not be sacraficed.  Goettsch Partners designed the skyscraper so that the riverwalk will pass beneath the tower.  They’re kind of hard to see this early in construction, but the footings are there for three radiating supports positioned along the river’s edge, with the riverwalk between them and the lobby.

Rendering of 110 North Wacker

Rendering of 110 North Wacker

The result is a win-win.  Howard Hughes gets 1.4 million square feet of rentable space in the tower above, and the public gets some shelter from the elements while using the public space.  With any luck, we’ll see a little cafe action here, so people can enjoy some joe while watching the boats pass.  Public benches in this public space would be ideal, especially for brown-baggers, but we’re not getting our hopes up on that front.

The Wacker Drive side is somewhat less loved.  It’s all shiny metal-clad columns and glass walls.  Even the trees are on the inside, where they are the private property of the building’s owner, and not a piece of the streetscape.

But sparrows have no respect for private property.  It’ll only be a few weeks before a couple find their way into the lobby and start chirping up a storm in the miniature arboretum.  Chicago sparrows always find a way.

110 North Wacker under construction (Courtesy of Loop Spy Chris)

110 North Wacker under construction (Courtesy of Loop Spy Chris)

from Chicago Architecture https://www.chicagoarchitecture.org/2018/08/21/110-north-wacker-ready-to-go-vertical-welcome-chicago-sparrows/


Another Crane Moving Out of Lincoln Park

It was just about a month ago that the south tower crane pulled out of the Lincoln Common project at 2335 and 2345 North Lincoln Avenue.  Today, the north tower crane begins its long adieu.

Lincoln Common under construction (Courtesy of Joe Zekas/YoChicago!)

Lincoln Common under construction, when both cranes were present. (Courtesy of Joe Zekas/YoChicago!)

Lincoln Common, you’ll remember is the redevelopment of the property that used to be Children’s Memorial Hospital.  That hospital decamped for Streeterville a decade ago, and its ugly bulk was removed from the Lincoln Park skyline.

Replacing it, Lincoln Common by McCaffery Interests and Hines will eventually have 538 apartments, 60 condos, and 92,000 square feet of retail space.

The disassembly of the second of two tower cranes shows the project is chugging right along, with construction being handled by W.E. O’Neil.

If the weather cooperates, the crane should be gone by close of business Thursday.  If mother nature decides to throw a fit Monday afternoon, tack on another day or two.

Rendering of the Children's Memorial Hospital redevelopment (Courtesy of McCaffery Interests)

Rendering of The Lincoln Common (Courtesy of McCaffery Interests)

from Chicago Architecture https://www.chicagoarchitecture.org/2018/08/20/another-crane-moving-out-of-lincoln-park/

It’ll Be Subarus, Not Servers for One South Loop Block

Yesterday we were gishing to bring you the news of three new hotels opening up within a single building in the South Loop.  Today, it is with melancholy and infinite sadness we report that another building on the same block will not be built.

The development pumpkin was smashed in a letter to the City of Chicago from lawyers for McHugh Construction.  McHugh is the muscle behind the siamese dream of a hotel at 123 East Cermak Road, across the street from McCormick Place.  In addition to the hotel mash-up, it was going to put up a big data center next door at 2222 South Indiana Avenue.  Now, that’s not going to happen.

2222 South Indiana Avenue

Wheeee! Parking! (via Apple Maps)

According to papers filed with the city, McHugh simply couldn’t find anyone who adored the idea of housing their machina there.

McHugh had hoped to start work on the data center back in 2014.  Instead it’s going to put in a… surface parking lot.  It’s pearl clutching time.

Since the land will go from housing one type of inanimate object to housing another type of inanimate object, the city said OK.

The parking lot will have 127 spaces, with an entrance and an exit on South Indiana Avenue.  The Indiana Avenue side gets an OK ornamental metal fence.  But the alleys both get chain-link monuments to an elegy.

It remains to be seen what will become of the Rambler Building at 2246 South Indiana.  When this project was first announced, it was thought that the Rambler would be rehabbed into retail space.  Then it was going to be support offices for the data center.   By September of 2014 it was slated to become a parking garage with a tiny slice of retail.

The zeitgeist of today is that you can’t go wrong with data centers, especially with tech giants in Oceania expanding into middle America.  So, perhaps Big M is just warehousing the property until it can find exactly the right client.


from Chicago Architecture https://www.chicagoarchitecture.org/2018/08/14/itll-be-subarus-not-servers-for-one-south-loop-block/

Chicago’s Lesser-Known Downtown Riverwalk To Be Spruced Up

Back when we first started publishing this publication, coming home to Lakeshore East after a late night of community meetings often meant dodging rats along the south bank of the Chicago River, then squishing through mud to thread a passage between walls of rusting corrugated steel, a city auto impound lot, and weed-choked lots.

The “old” Riverwalk has improved since then.  Seeds have been planted for various businesses along the riverbank, to varying degrees of success.  The lighting is occasionally improved, but then degrades rather rapidly.  And there are still the ever-present glimpses of scurrying rats and the whiff of 200 years of industrial funk in the air.  But hopefully that will soon change.

The city announced a plan to throw a few bones to the old section of the Riverwalk — east of Michigan Avenue, south of North Water Street, and north of South Water Street — to be completed by 2020.

While the city and CDOT have been pouring millions into a very successful program to erect riparian delights along the waterway’s main channel, the focus has been on the more heavily trafficked core Loop area.  Now with the massive Vista Tower getting ready to come alive, the potential for three huge new skyscrapers in the northeast corner of Lakeshore East, and even more development coming to adjacent areas, it’s time to finally get around to mucking out the shed.

Old Riverwalk improvement area (base image via Apple Maps)

Old Riverwalk improvement area (base image via Apple Maps)

Unfortunately, half of the city’s $10 million effort is aimed at the immediate Michigan Avenue area.  While it is the most heavily trafficked by tourists, it is also the area least in need of improvement.

The city plans to reconfigure the area east of Michigan Avenue with a number of items, including a gateway structure, more landscaping, more street furniture, and some kind of a “visual screen” to pretend that  Lower Wacker Drive doesn’t exist.

That’s pretty ambitious for a plaza that already has congestion problems.  It’s where some of the Chicago River cruise boats load tourists, and where those tourists buy tickets for the ride.  Joggers’ Fitbits already have fits at this bit of the Riverwalk, as they try to keep a non-walking pace surrounded by dozens of people doing the zombie shuffle while taking selfies.

On the other side of the bridge, the city wants more public seating (yay!) and more retail in something called “Michigan Avenue Market.”  The city describes it as a “market to complement current concessions program to highlight neighborhood businesses.”  Unless the market is indoors, and the neighborhood business are alcohol-based, this is going to be another example of City Hall optimists discounting a little thing called “winter.”

Meanwhile, on the needy side of the bridge, the city wants to spruce up the landscaping and seating along the entire stretch, especially at the Lake Shore Drive gateway where a viewing area will be created so people can admire the murals.

The Columbus Drive area will get much needed drainage improvements, which will hopefully help with the airborne funk, and the Field Drive area nets both a play area for the wee ones and a potential “submarine memorial,” which is probably some kind of underwater display area, and not a plaque commemorating the way the Department of Defense used to use the Chicago River to move submarines around.


from Chicago Architecture https://www.chicagoarchitecture.org/2018/08/13/chicagos-lesser-known-downtown-riverwalk-to-be-spruced-up/

Three Hotels Open In One South Loop Building

As the area around McCormick Place undergoes its largest transformation in years, a trio of new hotels has opened — all in the same building at 123 East Cermak Road.

Hilton planted three of its flags on the southwest corner of East Cermak Road and South Indiana Avenue, directly across the street from the massive convention center’s West Building.

123 East Cermak (via Hilton)

123 East Cermak (via Hilton)

Chicago has seen double-decker hotel buildings before, but this triple-decker Dagwood sandwich of hospitality is a first both both the city, and the Hilton company.  It features the Hilton Garden Inn, Hampton Inn, and Home2 Suites brands in a 23-story tower designed by River North’s Antunovich Associates with The Loop’s Todd Halamka + Partners. Altogether there are 466 rooms and suites.

The property is not only neighbors with McCormick Place, it’s actually connected to it by skybridge for conventioneers who love Chicago, but don’t want to get all up close and personal with a full-on Lake Michigan winter.

For those who do venture into the fresh air, the new Wintrust Arena is across the street, and the CTA’s recently constructed Cermak-McCormick Place Green Line station is two blocks west.

123 East Cermak (via Hilton)

123 East Cermak (via Hilton)

from Chicago Architecture https://www.chicagoarchitecture.org/2018/08/13/three-hotels-open-in-one-south-loop-building/

Survey: Lincoln Yards Neighbors Want More Roads, Bridges, Transit

As the enormous Lincoln Yards master plan from Sterling Bay trudges through step two of a nine-step approval process, neighbors have been given a chance to weigh in via the interwebs.

Rendering of Lincoln Yards (via Office of Alderman Brian Hopkins)

It’s August.  That’s why we’re using the rendering with the snowman.  (via Office of Alderman Brian Hopkins)

Second Ward Alderman Brian Hopkins published the results of an online poll about the project which will bring up to 5,000 new residences, an extension of The 606, and an as-yet-to-be-determined amount of office and hotel space to the Goose Island area.

We’ve been watching too much BUZZR on the ol’ satellite dish lately, so we’ll bring you a list of what people seem to care the most about by channeling Richard Dawson.  SURVEY SAYS!

Snapshot of the Lincoln Yards August survey


As you can see, transportation and infrastructure is top-of-mind for most of the 443 people who answered the alderman’s survey. After that, they want parks parks parks, which other reportage indicates is also a sticking point for local neighborhood groups.

The big features promoted by the developers — the new soccer stadium, $4.2 billion in annual economic activity, and 23,000 new jobs — got a digital sigh and a yawn.

Other highlights include:

  • About half of the people who responded were members of a neighborhood group (46%)
  • About 40% of the respondents saw the developer’s presentation, either in person (24%), or online video (16%)
  • About 40% of the respondents had a favorable opinion of the Lincoln Yards plan
  • About 38% of the respondents didn’t like the Lincoln Yards plan
  • Eighty-six percent think parks and community space are important.
  • The number of people who don’t think parks and community space are important is a rounding error

If you want to look at all of the survey results yourself, you can do that through this linky.

And if you want to refresh your memory about exactly what is being proposed at Lincoln Yards, follow this one.

from Chicago Architecture https://www.chicagoarchitecture.org/2018/08/09/survey-lincoln-yards-neighbors-want-more-roads-bridges-transit/

Rahm’s “Meigs Moment:” Not-Yet-Approved Obama Center Leaving a Premature Scar on Jackson Park

Remember in 2003 when former mayor Richard M. Daley bulldozed Meigs Field in the middle of the night?  It was an act of hubris that cost the city $33,000 in federal fines and a million dollars in misspent airport funds.  At the time, the Chicago Tribune wrote, “The issue is Daley’s increasingly authoritarian style that brooks no disagreements, legal challenges, negotiations, compromise or any of that messy give-and-take normally associated with democratic government.”

Mayor Rahm Emanuel just had his Meigs Moment.

Obama Presidential Center model (Courtesy of the Obama Foundation)

Obama Presidential Center model (Courtesy of the Obama Foundation)

That’s because, as the Chicago Sun-Times reports, the Chicago Park District and the City of Chicago have decided to go ahead and start tearing up Jackson Park just south of the proposed location of the Barack Obama Presidential Center.  This, even though there is still a long list of federal agencies which have not yet approved the construction of the project in Jackson Park. Plus, there’s a pesky pending federal lawsuit.

The irony is that this comes just a month after the lawsuit seeking to block the Obama Center construction was put on hold because the city and the Park District argued that the suit was premature since there is no formal agreement between the city and the Obama Foundation yet.

Even without an agreement, an estimated 300 trees have allegedly been tagged for destruction in the vicinity of the Obama Center project.  The Sun-Times has published photographs of some of the trees stacked up like cord wood.  Because that’s all they are now.

And about that pledge from Obama Foundation CEO David Simas not to mess with the trees until it had construction permits in hand?  That’s OK, because the trees aren’t being cut down to make room for the Obama Center.  They’re being cut down to make room for a sports field that is being pushed out by the Obama Center.  A move funded by the foundation.  So Mr. Simas is technically correct. And technically correct is the best kind of correct.

The next move in this chess game was planned for August 28th.  We’ll see if a park infested with urban lumberjacks and ditch diggers gets that moved up.


from Chicago Architecture https://www.chicagoarchitecture.org/2018/08/08/rahms-meigs-moment-not-yet-approved-obama-center-leaving-a-premature-scar-on-jackson-park/