It’s been months since we first got the good news that the ghost skyscraper known as Waterview Tower had been bought by a new company that planned to resurrect it as 111 West Wacker Drive. During those months we’ve been treated to new signs, the occasional hardhat sighting, and a whole lot of evocative concrete drilling noises.
Now, as the kids say, “things are gonna get real.” On Wednesday (January 30, 2013), the city issued a revised permit for a tower crane to be erected at 111, meaning the building that sprouted from this location, grew to a mere 25 stories, then died on the vine, will once again reach skyward — and soon. The original permit was issued on the 18th, and since then construction crews have been seen building its foundation. Now that the permit has been revised to match the new foundation, it’s not unsafe to assume that crane sections could be seen rolling down Wacker Drive in the near future.
The original skyscraper was supposed to be 92-stories and 1,047 feet tall, with luxury condominiums and America’s first Shangri-La Hotel. Work began in 2005, but by the time it got to the 25th floor, the economy went all pear-shaped, and the project was abandoned. In 2012, Related Midwest bought the property and unveiled more modest plans for what had been built so far — a 59-story, 630-foot-tall apartment block.
All that jackhammering we’ve been hearing for the last few month was partial demolition of the 25th and 26th floors of the derelict building in order to accommodate the vertical addition. I use the word “addition” because this is officially a renovation of a building, and not the continuing construction of a new building. Even though it’s going to cost $95 million and more than double its existing height, it’s still on paper a renovation, just like when you put that jetted tub in your bathroom.
A few years ago it was brought to my attention that there are “crane enthusiasts” — People who travel around looking at cranes in different places, like a birdwatcher, or a wine taster. But with cranes. For those who are so-inclined, the crane in question is listed in the permit as a Manitowoc MD485. The only literature I could find on this is for the 485B, introduced in 2004. It’s described as “an improved version of Potain’s popular MD 485. It features a lighter jib of up to 262 feet in length that can be assembled in the air in one, two, or three sections.” There are two versions, lifting 22 and 27.5 tons. Most of that is lost on me; I just hope the one we get is pretty red like the one in the brochure.