Planned West Loop Skyscraper Flips From Apartments to Offices

Rendering of 108 North Jefferson

The next building to alter Chicago’s West Loop skyline won’t bring in new neighbors after all.

Jupiter Realty Company, the developer of 108 North Jefferson Street, has radically changed its plans for the 20-story, 290-foot-tall tower.  Instead of hundreds of new residences, the building is going commercial.

The Solomon Cordwell Bunez-designed building will look much like many other sleek blue glass buildings added to Chicago in the last decade or so, and replaces a dilapidated surface parking lot on Jefferson between West Randolph Street and West Washington Boulevard.

The block the building is on is also home to several of three and four-story buildings, and has a setback matching their height to continue the joint roofline along Jefferson Street.  The roof of the setback becomes a private garden for whatever company ends up leasing the fifth floor.  Near the top of the building, the 19th-floor tenant will benefit from a different architectural feature, currently envisioned as a balcony, as well as an increased ceiling height of 12 feet, compared with 9 feet for the rest of the floors.

108 North Jefferson is an honest 20-story building, with no skipped levels, though it is billed as 19-stories since floor 20 is mechanical.  The design calls for 14 stories of offices sandwiched between the mechanical penthouse, and five floors of parking:

  • 20: Mechanical
  • 6-19: Offices
  • P2-P4: Parking
  • 1: Lobby, Retail, Parking
  • B1: Mechanical

The ground floor has two or three retail spaces, depending on how it’s configured.  The developers would like to see the space filled with trendy restaurants, like the neighboring buildings.  But in this economy, they’ll take pretty much whatever they can get.

The parking garage has 144 spaces, an improvement of about 20 on the current surface parking lot.  It is all public parking space, and will be available to patrons of the popular nearby restaurants.

Those 20 parking spaces are the extent of this building’s contribution to the neighborhood.  When asked by local residents about green spaces, access to the green roof, or any other public amenities, the developers, architects, and even Alderman Brendan Reilly responded with the same kind of blank stares you might get from asking a golden retriever to do long division.

This is interesting, because in some cities it’s virtually impossible to get a downtown building project approved without contributing somehow to the public good.  Plenty of other buildings in Chicago, even in the same neighborhood as this project, offer privately-owned public space for the good of the community.  But in this case, even the notion of a park bench was greeted with incoherence.

Science fiction fans shouldn’t get their hopes up about the Starfleet insignia that Solomon Cordwell Buenz is using in its renderings as the building’s corporate identity.  It’s just for illustration purposes.

The original plan to develop this building as apartments a couple of years ago came under fire because the Central Area Action Plan recommends that this street be used as a commercial corridor, to relieve some of the pressure coming from the growth of the Loop.  Mixed-density, mixed-rate development is seen as healthier than having a high-rent district, surrounded by surface parking lots, which is what a lot of less fortunate cities are stuck with today.

Regardless, nothing will happen with this project until Jupiter is able to get commitments for at least 66% of the 372,000 square feet of office space.  With the balcony at the top, and the garden on the fifth floor, the building is designed to appeal to one or two mid-sized marquee tenants, with the rest of the space offered piecemeal.

Even if that requirement can be met in the short term, completion isn’t anticipated until 2014.

Editor

Author: Editor

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

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