For the last 10 days or so, people have been hitting the Tip Line asking what the heck is going on over at the intersection of Rush and Hubbard, behind the Wrigley Building.
Recently a metric buttload* of heavy demolition equipment showed up in the parking lot bounded by East Illinois Street, North Rush Street, East Hubbard Street, and North Wabash Avenue. Digging through city paperwork turned up nothing, even though people like Loop Spy Ryan kept sending in photos of the mechanical beasts slumbering in anticipation. The nearest demolition permit we could find was for the ramp attached to the old Dominick’s store a few blocks away. That is supposed to be the location of a second Optima Tower at some point in the future.
Then yesterday, deep inside the bowels of city hall, a piece of paper got a stamp on it and it became official — a demolition permit for the old Lakeshore Athletic Club at 441 North Wabash Avenue.
Once cleared, there will be an entire city block available for development right in the middle of one of the city’s hottest real estate submarkets. So, what’s going to go there?
The last project we heard of slated for that space was a new Realtor’s building, as outlined in this November, 2013 Chicago Tribune article sent in by Streeterville Spy Brian. It’s very vague, but describes a building of between one and two million square feet. So, big.
You may remember that plan, which included knocking down the Realtor’s 13-story headquarters building at 430 North Michigan Avenue and putting up something in the 90-something-story range— big enough to rival the nearby Trump tower. It was met with enthusiastic amazement by skyscraper fans, and sneered disbelief by others who noted that there just isn’t enough land for a project that size.
The most prominent nail in the coffin came from 42nd Ward Alderman Brendan Reilly who told another local architecture blog that he didn’t consider the Realtor plan to be real. In large part because it would require the demolition of the Plaza of the Americas, which is owned by the city.
Well, as we all know, plans change. Designs get revised. And dodging a small city plaza can be done rather easily by a skilled architect. It just so happens that our spies have seen several very well-known architects visiting the Realtor Building in the last six months or so. In one case, toting a Tupperware full of home made chocolate chip cookies. Whatever it takes to win a client, right?
Whether the demolition of the Lakeshore Athletic Club is a sign of things to come remains to be seen.
The Realtors have been keeping everything very close to their vest. Don’t be surprised if the next update on this comes in the form of a fully formed building proposal announced from Reilly’s office or in the pages of Crain’s.
We’ll be watching.
Update — August 22, 2014 @ 3:30pm:
We heard from National Association of Realtors® C.E.O. Dale Stinton. He wants everyone to know in no uncertain terms that what’s going on at the Lakeshore Athletic Club block has nothing to do with the National Association of Realtors®. National Association of Realtors® spokeswoman Stephanie Singer tells us that the National Association of Realtors® decided in April, 2014 not to leave the National Association of Realtors® building at 430 North Michigan Avenue.
*1 metric buttload = .7 shittons = 4.5 crapwagons. These are all official engineering terms. No they’re not.