STREETERVILLE — The 76-foot-deep hole in the ground excavated for the 2,000-foot-tall Chicago Spire that never happened could begin to be filled by the end of the year.
The vacant lot at the corner of the Chicago River and Lake Michigan was set to be home to the tallest skyscraper in the Western Hemisphere, but construction never advanced past digging the hole and beginning the foundation.
But now the company that took over the site has a new plan: A pair of “sister towers” that could include a mix of apartments and condos.
On Tuesday evening, Curt Bailey, president of Related Midwest, presented plans for the 875-foot-tall and 765-foot-tall towers to over 200 neighbors at a community meeting. The gathering was held by Ald. Brendan Reilly (42nd) and the Streeterville Organization of Active Residents at the Intercontinental Hotel, 505 N.Michigan Ave.
The towers designed by David Childs of Skidmore Owings & Merrill would be “reminiscent of a waterfall” and “constructed of glass and terra cotta, with intricate metal detailing,” according to Related Midwest’s website.
Related acquired the site in 2014 from Irish developer Garret Kelleher, whose plans for the Spire designed by famed architect Santiago Calatrava collapsed after the 2008 financial crisis.
Bailey described those plans as a “a lot of drawings from Calatrava” that weren’t financially feasible.
“There were a lot of promises made in 2007 and ‘08 that were never satisfied,” he said.
Reilly rejected a previous Related proposal for the site in 2018, saying at the time that the community was concerned about “traffic, the tall podium on which the towers would be built, security along the river and a proposed hotel,” according to the Chicago Tribune.
Reilly was non-committal on whether he’d support the new iteration, but said he’s happy with the changes that were presented. They were the result of “six months of intense negotiations” working on a list of concerns Reilly gave the developer, he said.
“It was very important that the developer address those seven issues on the punch list that were developed, and I think generally the developer has,” he said.
Before he signs off on the new plans, Reilly said he’ll listen to the feedback gathered from the meeting.
“If there are more issues that need to be made or issues that need to be addressed, we’ll do that at the negotiating table,” he said.
The revised plan removes the hotel and imposing podium that elevated the two buildings above the surrounding neighborhood. Changes were made to reduce traffic flow on North Water Street, and on-site parking was reduced from 750 to 300 spaces, which Bailey said is “just enough.”
The area surrounding the buildings would be a landscaped walkway and Related would complete the northern portion of the Chicago Riverwalk, connecting pedestrians to DuSable Park through a pathway under Lake Shore Drive.
Bailey told the audience that security cameras would have eyes on anyone for the duration they “come onto our property or you leave our property,” and suggested that those experiencing homelessness would be pushed away from seating on the Riverwalk the company will be required to build.
“We want to have beautiful seating. That’s great, just sit and enjoy it for a moment. We also want to design seating that you can’t just hang around for a long time, ie. sleep, etc.,” he said.
Reducing the height of the buildings was not on Reilly’s list of concerns but was done to “actually deliver a project,” Bailey said.
“How do these things get built? They need to be financeable,” he said.
The taller north tower was reduced from 1,100 feet to 875 feet and construction could begin by the end of the year, Bailey said. The second tower was lowered from 850 feet to 765 feet. The start date for construction would be “market dependent.”
Approximately 1,100 residential units would be split between the towers, with luxury-rate apartments built in the first tower and a mixture of apartments and condos, depending on what the market dictates, in the second.
Each tower would take over three years to build, so the earliest residents could begin moving in would be 2024. Related is still lining up financing for the project, but Bailey told Block Club that the company would not ask for any tax dollars.
“We’re not asking the city for anything on this site,” he said.
The original “planned development” between the city and previous developer was approved before the city introduced its Affordable Requirements Ordinance, so Related is under no obligation to include affordable housing in the plan.
Presented with the new plans, neighbors who spoke at the meeting were mostly supportive, but some had concerns about increased traffic in the neighborhood and when DuSable Park, to be built across Lake Shore Drive from the site, would be completed.
Traffic from North Water Street to the site would be limited to only residents and their guests while delivery access would be accommodated from Lake Shore Drive. Bailey said eliminating the hotel would reduce taxi service and ride-share traffic by approximately 70 percent.
The land where DuSable Park is to be built would be used as a staging area for construction of the first tower. The park, which Related is contributing $10 million dollars to finance, would be completed as the first tower is finished.
Before construction can begin, Bailey said they’ll have to return to the Chicago Plan Commission to revise the Planned Development of the site, and then receive approval from City Council.
“We want to deliver a great building, we want to deliver a park,” he said, “I think these buildings will absolutely stand the test of time, architecturally.”
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