Originally Posted by Ch.G, Ch.G
re: Presidential Towers, I was thinking the exact same thing.
Just because something is huge doesn't make it bold or visionary. What you have here, for example, is something mundane that's elevated to the level of ridiculous/absurd/out-of-touch because of its size. The project is entirely based (literally and figuratively) on retail. Has he not read the news about Roosevelt Collection? Block 37? Trump Tower's retail component? The demand for what he's proposing simply does not exist, and even if (or when) it were to there's clearly already enough space in the established shopping districts to absorb it all.
There's an opportunity to do something really exciting with the site-- you have the river and the city's front entrance (Congress) right there. But this proposal doesn't appear to engage it in any way-- it does the opposite, really: with those huge walls of "retail" (and parking, no doubt), it cloisters itself off from these potentially amazing assets-- not to mention the rest of the city.
I'm hoping that the render was simply a generic plotting diagram, and not an actual representation of how they envision the individual buildings to look.
That said, if you get rid of some of the more fanciful things, such as the retail "bridge" over the river, you actually have the potential for some interesting results. For example, the positioning of the tall tower seems to have been selected to form a capstone to the view down the south branch of the river from the Apparel Mart and from the Riverside Plaza areas.
If you removed the retail between the shorter tower on the NE corner of the Post Office plot and the largest tower, you'd end up with an arrangement that would still show off the art deco Post Office, but enhance the sensation of driving through something. And we don't really know if they've ignored the river or not because they don't show any details about how the buildings would meet it. It's not as though the city and river there are already beautifully matched there - it would be very difficult to make any sort of ideal river/city meld in that area that didn't end up feeling forced and out of place. After all, Congress is essentially a highway there, and it kind of divides off that part of the river from any hope of being an extension of Riverside Plaza and across the river, the Wacker extension and interface with Congress destroys the usability on that side, too. And I think you're not really facing reality if you think that a park surrounded by a highway, a train yard and across the river from a boring, pretty ugly new post office processing facility would be popular or beautiful or usable or in any way add to Chicago. The big parcel south of Roosevelt Rd is really the best bet for creating an interface between the City and the River. That's across from a railyard, but it's a much bigger drawing board and thus has more flexible possibilities.
I'm not defending the drawing as it is, but I am saying that the core layout is at least has the potential for merit. As for your counter-examples, they're all too small. Roosevelt Collection is hard to get to for neighborhood residents on foot, and just isn't big enough to draw people from anywhere else. Even Block 37 should either have gone bigger or simply not been a mall. If it wasn't on State Street, it would have no hope at that size and even being on State Street, it barely even holds its own as far as generating critical mass. I think the Trump thing will work, eventually, they just have to figure out how it's supposed to work during the winter when nobody in their right mind would walk along that section of the river.