New Near North Skyscraper Will Preserve Piano History, Bury Your Childhood

Chicago+LaSalle Diagram

“Here we grow again!” said nobody at Smithfield Properties last week when it submitted its plans to the City of Chicago for a 34-story residential building on the corner of West Chicago Avenue and North LaSalle Street.

Over the last couple of decades Smithfield Properties has been instrumental in transforming Chicago’s Near North Side from acres of warehouses, small factories, and surface parking lots into a residential community.

You may remember Smithfield from such buildings as 30 West Oak, Kingsbury on the Park (653 North Kingsbury Street), MoMo (8 East Randolph Street), and SoNo (860 West Blackhawk Street).

The new tower, which lacks a portmanteau like its recent cousins, will be at 801 North LaSalle Street, on property partially owned by the Moody Bible Institute. Right now the name is simply “Chicago+LaSalle.”

The building is envisioned as a standard 33-story Chicago tower-on-a-podium, this time with the tower in blue glass. There will be ground floor retail space facing Chicago Avenue. The residential entrance is on LaSalle Street, with cars entering the garage through the north-south alley connecting Chicago Avenue and Chestnut Street.

While Chicago Avenue fares well with some shiny new retail space, LaSalle Street gets the fuzzy end of the lollypop. The residential lobby is tiny, and the remainder of the building facing the wall is concrete panels covering the parking garage. A better alternative would be to have the parking raised one level, putting it over streetfront retail.

In terms of neighborhood crowding, the plot is right up against a 36-story residential tower to the north, but the Chicago+LaSalle tower itself is on the south side of the property. Within a block are four other towers over 25 stories, plus a smattering of eight to 15-story buildings.

Unlike most new buildings these days, the pool isn’t on the fourth-floor common area on the podium with the dog run. It’s way up on the 34th floor — old school-style. There will also be cabanas and a lounging area. However, the pool doesn’t look to be all that big. It’s probably one of those dinky plunge pools like at The Shoreham at Lakeshore East.

800 North Clark - Adopted by Smithfield Properties in order to increase the height of the new building at Chicago and LaSalle.

800 North Clark – Adopted by Smithfield Properties in order to increase the height of the new building at Chicago and LaSalle.

In order to get the height the developers wanted for this building, they agreed to “adopt” the building next door at 80o North Clark Street. Known sometimes as the Bush Temple of Music, the French Renaissance-style building it was the headquarters of the Bush and Gerts Piano Company. It was designed by J.E.O. Pridmore and built in 1901.

It is easily one of the most beautiful buildings in the Near North neighborhood, though time and the city haven’t been kind to it.

Another piece of good news is that this building will replace what is currently a surface parking lot, and a triangle-shaped billboard on a pole that always seemed out of place.

Also being torn down for this new skyscraper is a smaller building at 815 North LaSalle. This is an ordinary two-story concrete bunker of a building that played a big role in many of our lives.

From 1965 until 1988, this was the home of Marvin Glass Associates. You probably don’t know the name, but you know its inventions: Simon. Lite Brite. Mousetrap.

This is where dozens of great 60’s, 70’s, and 80’s toys were invented, then sold to companies like Mattel and Hasbro to be sold to children across America.

Here are more details about the building:

  • Height: 345 feet.
  • Residences: 290
  • Footprint: 26,779 square feet
  • Depth: 137 feet
  • Width: 202 feet
  • Floor space: 271,878 square feet
  • Retail space: 4,176 square feet
  • Parking spaces: 97
  • Going for LEED certification
  • Green roof: 12,547 square feet (50% of the roof)

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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