One of the very first posts we put on this blog almost ten years ago showed the early days of the development of Lakeshore East. Back then the area that would become downtown Chicago’s newest master planned community was just a big dirt lot as bulldozers transformed a temporary golf course into an urban oasis.
But ten years ago is nothing in comparison with the overall time that Lakeshore East has been on the drawing boards. It’s hard to believe that it’s been almost a half century since someone came up with the idea of Lakeshore East. The first detailed plan for Lakeshore East was filed with the city on July 29, 1969 by the Illinois Central Railroad Company. Considering how much the world has changed in the last 43 years, it’s remarkable how little Lakeshore East changed. The maps show the prominent central park surrounded by apartment, condominium, and hotel towers mostly in the same places where they ended up today.
The only significant items missing are the pedway connections that each subsequent developer has promised but largely failed to deliver, and a proposed subway line running under Columbus Drive.
A revised plan was filed with the city October 20, 1978. By then the railroad had changed its name to the Illinois Central Gulf Railroad Company , but Lakeshore East remained nameless until 1992 when it started being called Illinois Center Plaza. Later it gained the name Lakeshore East.
With the infrastructure in place, the neighborhood has blossomed in recent years with more than a half-dozen skyscrapers, dozens of townhouses, and many more buildings on the way. Currently Lakeshore East consists of The Lancaster, The Shoreham, 340 on the Park, The Tides, Aqua, The Chandler, The Regatta, The Coast, The Benton Place Parkhomes, The Aqua Parkhomes, and Lakeshore East Retail. But plans for a long-awaited new school are on the drawing boards, and there’s been some recent internet chatter about finally building the massive tower that is supposed to straddle North Field Boulevard at East Wacker Drive.
If you haven’t been over to that part of the city in a while, it’s a nice little getaway. There’s a cafe, a casual restaurant called Eggy’s, and a Mariano’s Fresh Market. Bring your favorite e-reader and have a picnic in the park. It’s a great way to waste a warm Summer day.