Streeterville Skyscraper Stalled by Green Screen

The residential tower proposed for one of the last open plots of land along Lake Shore Drive in Streeterville has been delayed.

Revised rendering of 500 Lake Shore Drive courtesy of Solomon Cordwell Buenz

42nd Ward alderman Brendan Reilly had the 45-story project called 500 Lake Shore Drive (actually at 516 North Lake Shore Drive) pulled from the agenda of today’s Chicago Plan Commission meeting because of concerns over how the building’s lower facade looks.

The building is a bog standard rectangle tower on top of a rectangle podium — one of dozens in the area, and quite possibly hundreds across the city.  But that parking podium is in a very prominent place — virtually across Lake Shore Drive from Navy Pier (600 East Grand Avenue), the state’s #1 tourist attraction.  And without the Chicago Spire as the focal point of all those Chicago skyline photographs, this building will be very visible.

The alderman’s concern is about the proposed green screen on the side of the podium facing Touristville.  He wants it beefed up, with plants that will stand up to a Chicago lakeshore winter and remain green all year ’round.  Whether this is horticulturally possible, I can’t say.  But Reilly believes enough in the premise to take action.

In a letter to his constituents, Reilly wrote:

Because I know Streeterville residents are deeply committed to sustainability and the continued “greening” of the neighborhood – I directed the architect and development team to incorporate creative “green elements” into the design of the base.  To address concerns related to the eastern elevation of the proposed structure (facing Lake Shore Drive), I insisted that roughly one-third of that elevation be furnished with an all-season green wall (that survives 12 months a year) and complemented by planted mature trees.

The addition of this unique “green” design element would make 500 N Lake Shore Drive the first building in Chicago featuring a year-round exterior green wall – which would attract recognition for Streeterville’s deep commitment to environmental sustainability and local “green” initiatives.  I believe this design change poses a win-win for neighbors.

What he gets in terms of results remains to be seen, because most of the zoning and other issues were approved by former 42nd Ward alderman Burt Natarus before Reilly came to power in 2007.

Until the next Plan Commission meeting is held, Reilly is inviting comments from the public on the project.

Diagram of 500 Lake Shore Drive courtesy of Solomon Cordwell Buenz

Author: Editor

Editor founded the Chicago Architecture Blog in 2003, after a long career in journalism. He can be reached at

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