Stalled River North Skyscraper Starts Again, Saves Historic Firehouse

212 West Illinois

A stalled residential tower proposed for Chicago’s River North neighborhood is back on the drawing boards.

The skyscraper at 212 West Illinois Street was approved by  Chicago’s city council in 2007, but was never built. According to an e-mail from 42nd Ward Alderman Brendan Reilly, the project is out of mothballs and its developers are asking for some modifications so it can be built.

The updated development proposal would:

  • lower the building height to 250 feet, which is below the maximum permitted building height of 280 feet;
  • revise the exterior envelope of the residential tower to change upper level setbacks, reducing the height of the tower by one floor; and
  • relocate the parking ramp entrance to the east side of the building, thereby allowing more of the existing Chicago firehouse building to be retained and preserved.

You can see in the drawing below how the 1887 firehouse at 228 West Illinois Street was originally going to be incorporated into the site.  The new ramp location will allow more landscaping to surround the historic building (also pictured below, right).

212 West Illinois Street

Through the city’s Adopt-a-Landmark program, the developer was allowed to build a larger building than the plot was originally planned for in exchange for rehabbing the firehouse so it can be used by a commercial tenant.

The fact that this building is once again in motion shouldn’t necessarily be taken as a sign that the economy is improving.  Under city ordinance, if construction hasn’t started by December, 2013 the previously granted approvals will be automatically revoked.  This is because back in the 80’s a large oil company bought some prime property on State Street to construct a massive trophy tower.  But it didn’t happen.  The buildings previously on the site were torn down, and then the land was left as a vacant lot for years and years.  Today that space is the collection of shops at 30 South State Street.

More details:

  • Developer: Illinois Franklin Associates
  • Architect: Hartshorne Plunkard Architecture, Chicago
  • Size: 25 stories (down from 26 in previous plan)
  • Height: 250 feet (down from 280 feet in previous plan)
  • Residences: 188
  • Parking spaces: 176
  • Anticipated groundbreaking: February, 2013
  • Anticipated firehouse completion: January, 2014
  • Anticipated tower completion: April, 2014

Details from the previous plan which may or may not have changed:

  • Bicycle parking: 50 spaces
  • Water-efficient landscaping
  • 75% of construction waste recycling
  • Green roof
  • Dog run on the 7th floor
  • Former developer: JDL Acquisitions


Author: Editor

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

Share This Post On