River Point Shows Growth Potential in Both Height and Tunnel Capacity

 River Point under construction

Work is moving along very quickly to turn a weed-choked embankment, a gravel parking lot, and a bouquet of train tracks into a 1½-acre riverside park and a sexy, 650-foot-tall, curvy office tower named River Point.

River Point

Model of River Point

Houston-based Hines, and Montréal-based Ivanhoé-Cambridge still have a long way to go to meet their goal of opening the tower in the beginning of 2016, so construction crews are very busy.

The first big project is encapsulating the Amtrak lines that run into Chicago Union Station in a tunnel with a park on top, while still allowing Amtrak and Metra trains to use the rails normally.

It’s already possible to see the bones of this beast being planted — rebar cages sprout from the ground to the east and west of the tracks, and the access road has been rebuilt parallel to the easternmost track.

River Point under constructionCrews working from a pair of barges along the Chicago River have created a sheet pile seawall, and the mucky area behind it is being backfilled. This will eventually be a new portion of the Chicago riverwalk.

On the other side of the tracks, we see the first evidence of the 45-story tower’s foundation. There are six huge rebar cages protruding from a concrete mat. I don’t know much about foundations, so perhaps someone else can look at the picture and explain what’s happening. But comparing the location of these cages with the diagrams of the building’s structure provided to the City of Chicago by Pickard Chilton, it appears this will be a mechanical room under the lobby.

River Point diagram by Pickard Chilton showing possible extension to 49 stories and 700 feet

River Point diagram by Pickard Chilton showing possible extension to 49 stories and 700 feet

Interestingly, according to a letter from the Chicago Department of Housing and Urban Development dated October 3, 2012, the developers of River Point can actually go taller than 45 stories if they want to.

According to the HUD letter, Hines and Ivanhoe can throw on another four stories (49 total) if they want to, without asking anyone for permission, as long as the building stays under 702 feet tall. Years ago, the tower was originally approved for 53 stories and 736 feet, so this isn’t exactly controversial.

Pickard Chilton has put together a drawing showing the building with an extension to 49 stories and 700 feet. Perhaps if Hines can put together enough leases before construction gets too far along, the building may reach higher than we thought.

River Point under constructionAnother curious point is the fact that the railroad tunnel has been somewhat future-proofed. It has been designed, and the supporting columns placed, so that yet another rail line can be crammed down its throat. Looking at the tunnel diagrams, it seems like an interesting piece of macrame, but this is Chicago — we’ve engineered bigger, crazier things than that before.

More details about this project:

  • Tower height: 650 feet
  • Penthouse height: 611 feet
  • River lobby size: 10,075 square feet
  • Canal Street lobby size: 1,800 square feet
  • Canal Street retail space: About 5,200 square feet
  • Elevators: 19
  • Loading dock: 4 berths
  • Bicycle parking spaces: Zero
  • Street parking will be eliminated on Canal Street
  • Irrigation of the public park will be with stored rainwater
  • Trees in the park and building grounds:
    • Chanticleer Pear
    • Robinson rabapple
    • River Birch
    • Austrian Pine
    • Maidenhair Tree (Ginko biloba)
    • Autumn Blaze Maple
  • Shrubs in the park and building grounds:
    • Hicks Yew
    • Red Twig Dogwood
    • Miss Kim Lilac
    • Shrubby St. Johns Wort

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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