Lots of Gripes, Few Changes With Old Saint Pat’s Tower Plan

Drawing of the proposed Old Saint Patrick's Tower at 625 West Adams Street

The design of the proposed office tower at 625 West Adams Street has been revised.

In response to the concerns of neighbors about the building’s size and harsh reflections from the setting sun, Solomon Cordwell Buenz architects has altered the western facade to make it resemble a grid pattern.  The grid helps break up the building’s massing, and the three types of glass help cut down on reflection.

That’s about the only significant change in the building since it was presented to neighbors at a meeting this past May.

The new plan is being greeted with continuing skepticism by people who live nearby who feel their concerns aren’t being addressed by either the architecture firm, or the developer.  Both were on the receiving end of complaints at a public meeting last night

Many people who live at The Edge (210 South Des Plaines Street) and Haberdasher Square Lofts (728 West Jackson Boulevard) will likely lose their downtown skyline views.  Second ward alderman Bob Fioretti quickly put an end to those complaints when he stood up and informed the group that there is no legal right to a view.  The issue has been to the Illinois Supreme Court several times, and the justices have ruled that new buildings cannot be stopped because of blocked views.

The other big issue is traffic, both getting into, and out of the building’s internal parking garage.  The entry and exit are planned for Des Plaines Street — a one-way street.  So cars entering the parking structure through the south ramp will have to cross traffic coming out of the building’s north ramp, causing traffic backups and safety issues.

Still others are concerned about commuters illegally using alleys and West Quincy Street as shortcuts to I-90/94.  The developer’s traffic engineer thought that maybe this could be mitigated with some kind of barrier in the street, but that would need cooperation from CDOT to implement.

The alderman was clearly not happy that so little change has been made in the design since the last meeting nearly five months ago.  While the developer insisted that Wednesday’s meeting urgently needed to be held on short notice in order to advance the project, Fioretti noted that the building still doesn’t have an anchor tenant, and that no building gets financing from the banks these days without a commitment to at least 50% occupancy, so he’s content to conclude that there is plenty of time to get things right.

He also predicted that at last three more public meetings would need to be held, stretching things out until January.  And Fioretti indicated that more meetings could be a possibility if his constituents aren’t made happy.

More than one person in the audience thought that the building developer ought to offer local residents concessions in exchange for their support.  Free parking in the building’s garage was one pay-off that was suggested.

While there were plenty of rational and valid complaints voiced in the meeting, some people who showed up in opposition to the project did so simply because of their personal dislike for Old Saint Patrick’s Church, or even The Vatican.  The land where the building is expected to be erected is across from, and owned by, Old Saint Patrick’s.  Remarkably, there was some acknowledgement that OSP is a “commuter church,” serving mostly people who live in the suburbs, and that’s part of the reason the proposed tower needs so many parking spaces.

But other people were clearly there just to grind their personal axes, and would oppose any change to what is currently a surface parking lot as long as the church is involved.

Other tidbits:

  • The developer has approached six to ten companies to become lead tenants.
  • The Old Saint Pat’s function space is 17,000 square feet.
  • Cars do not get backed up onto Des Plaines Street entering the parking garage because ticketing is done on the second level.
  • Total building height: 336′ 4″.
  • The building occupies 93% of the lot.

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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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