New high rises planned for the Loop and South Loop draw much attention and debate
By Marie Balice Ward
(6/3/05) - Two new high rises are being developed at Monroe St./Wabash Ave. and at 830 S. Michigan Ave. Presentations were sponsored by the Grant Park Advisory Council and the Grant Park Conservancy which was attended by more than 70 people, most of whom are in favor of the planned high rises and their co-existence with historical buildings, explained Grant Park Advisory Council and Conser-vancy President Bob O’Neill. One dissenting vote for the Monroe St./Wabash Ave. project was the Landmarks Preservation Council of Illinois.
“We diligently supported the ‘land marking’ of the Grant Park/Michigan Avenue Street Wall creating the Historic Michigan Boulevard District,” O’Neill stated. “We thought it was important in preserving very beautiful and historic buildings. The Jewelers Row District and the Historic Michigan Boulevard District are very important but need an infusion of capital to bring life back to so many of the decaying historic buildings.
“It may seem a contradiction,” said O’Neill, “but high rises and the greening of Chicago go hand-in-hand: a close to perfect fit! High rises and landscaping are integral to the fabric of downtown Chicago and environmentally essential to a cleaner, greener city. We need to continue to create more natural landscapes in the city to complement our high rises. High rises prevent suburban sprawl and lead to more concentrated and significant cultural and natural areas in the City such as Grant Park and Northerly Island which present a perfect, natural habitat and resting place for nature and people.”
Thomas Kerwin, president of American Institute of Architects (AIA) Chicago, and partner at Skidmore Owings & Merrill LLP, stated, “High rise density must be supported by a solid infrastructure which Chicago does enjoy.” Kerwin added, “Density is a ‘positive’ if the environment can support it with access to transit, open spaces such as Grant Park, mixed use properties, an ‘amenable’ street and sidewalk network and amenities such as rivers and lakes.” He explained that the move back to urban areas is occurring worldwide. However, in many cities he has visited, including some in Asia, the cities’ infrastructures cannot support the density.
Jim Peters, Director of Preser-vation Planning, Landmarks Preservation Council of Illinois, stated that his organization has testified opposing the height of the Jewelers Row project. “This structure will be more than 816 feet tall - taller than any building on Michigan Avenue and certainly taller than any building along Jewelers Row. Buildings must be designed to respect the scale that exists within the environment.” He added that there were no shadow studies done for Wabash Ave., Michigan Ave. or Grant Park. Landmarks Preservation Council of Illinois is a statewide, not-for-profit advocacy group with no government affiliation.
Legacy at Millennium Park—21–39 S. Wabash Ave./52-64 E. Monroe St.
A glass and aluminum curtain wall will rise 71 stories while preserving the façade of the Jewelers Row buildings currently occupying 21 S. to 39 S. on Wabash Ave. This condominium tower in development by Mesa Development LLC will have more than 300 residential units, about 460 garage spaces and 8,000–10,000 sq. ft. of retail space. The project’s architectural firm is Solomon Cordwell Buenz of Chicago.
Richard Hanson of Mesa Development LLC said that the Chicago Planning Commission granted approval on May 19; in early May the Chicago Landmarks Committee voted in favor the development. The project also has the support of Alderman Burton Natarus. “Groundbreaking is likely to occur next year,” said Hanson. “We are about half way in obtaining approvals. We still need the approvals from Zoning and the City Council.” Hanson also explained that the current properties on Wabash Ave. are under option to buy. The project’s footprint, he said, is about 40,000 sq. ft.
“We believe—as do many others—that modern buildings constructed next to/near historic ones make the historic buildings even more beautiful and recognizable. We also think that it is a good compromise that we get high rises which take advantage of the views of Grant Park and the Lake and energize the area’s culture, nature, and restaurants while financing the preservation of some of the historic buildings on Wabash and Michigan Ave.,” said O’Neill.
830 S. Michigan Ave.
A new condominium tower is planned for 830 S. Michigan Ave. restoring the shuttered building that previously was occupied by the YWCA.
Renaissant Development Group LLC is planning to restore the YWCA building and build a tower behind it on Wabash Ave. that will meet the landmark guidelines for south Michigan Ave.
Said Stephen Ward, vice president and director of real estate relations of the Greater South Loop Association, “We are very pleased about the restoration of the YWCA building and we look forward to reviewing the new design.” He added that, “According to the current plans there will be residences on Wabash Ave. and Michigan Ave. and parking will not be exposed on either street.”
“The plans are only available in a conceptual layout format, and it is difficult to determine exactly where the tower will be situated,” said Peters. “We are concerned the building may be positioned on top of the YWCA structure. We would be pleased to see the tower located behind the YWCA building.”
“Residential high rises are essential to the cultural, environmental and retail fabric of downtown Chicago. High rise residents are great supporters of culture and retail. High rises also generate much-needed property tax revenue and create the beauty of active street life and bustling sidewalks and public transit,” added O’Neill.
Renaissant Development Group declined comment at this time, explaining that it is too early to discuss plans for the project at 830 S. Michigan Ave.
Last edited by BVictor1; Jun 7, 2005 at 12:17 PM.