SCB Dishes on Chicago’s New Loews Hotel Tower

Loews Hotel Tower construction

The newest building to sprout in Streeterville’s skyscraper forest is, not surprisingly, designed by friends-of-the-blog, SCB.  The Loews Hotel tower is very tall, remarkably thin, and is really starting to stand out in the crowd.

Since the building is rapidly approaching its maximum height, we sent a bunch of questions over to SCB to get the skinny on this new landmark.  Gary Kohn, SCB’s managing principal on the project was nice enough to answer.

Editor: What is your role role in the Lowes Hotel Tower project?

Kohn: I am responsible for managing the project delivery by SCB’s team and all of the specialty consultants that are engaged on the project. I also head up nationally SCB’s Hospitality Practice Group.

Editor: Has this building topped out yet, and if not, is there an anticipated topping out date?

Kohn: The building structure is expected to be topped out within the next couple of weeks.

Editor: The tower is remarkably slender compared to its height. How did that affect the layout of the rooms and apartments?

Loews Hotel Tower constructionKohn: The width of the tower is driven by the depth of the hotel guestrooms on the lower floors. Normally, a typical residential floor plate might otherwise be deeper if there wasn’t a hotel below. However, we were able to plan apartment units that are less deep but have broader exterior wall exposure and as a result creates apartments with a really generous exterior glass line exposure.

Editor: Is there any advantage to putting the residential component on top, and the hotel functions below?

Kohn: Definitely. In program rich hotel/residential mixed-use projects, it’s best to keep the hotel rooms on the lower floors in close proximity to the hotel’s more public amenities on the ground and second floors. In addition, given that hotel guests are only occupying the space for a relatively brief period, the higher floor view opportunities are provided for more long-term benefit of the residential units.

Editor: The tower’s eventual location changed from the initial proposal. How did the preservation of sight lines play a role in its eventual location?

Kohn: Our final design maintains the height limit and view corridor alignment with Ogden Slip to the east of the site. The building organization on the site optimizes all the demands of the multiple uses while respecting the urban framework and relationships to adjoining properties.

Editor: This was one of the few buildings in recent memory where the neighborhood advocacy group actually petitioned for it to be taller. How tall could you have gone in the existing tower footprint?

Kohn: The final height of the building was determined in order to optimize the building program within the bulk and density limits of the property. While it could have been built considerably taller there wasn’t really a compelling rationale for doing so.

Editor: The building is bordered on two sides by sloping, elevated streets. How did that affect the layout of the lower portions of the building?

Kohn: The sloping streets created both challenges and opportunities for pedestrian arrival, car drop-offs and service points. The final design takes advantage of the elevated streets by separating the hotel and residential entries. In addition, the design conceals the service and parking entries below Upper East North Water Street so there is limited interface between the pedestrian and vehicular movements.

Loews Hotel Tower constructionEditor: While Streeterville is becoming increasingly glassy, this building’s immediate neighbors are concrete and brick. How does it relate to its neighbors?

Kohn: Our design relates to the surrounding context through introducing a stone and precast concrete vocabulary at the base. This expression then transitions at the tower to a glass curtain-wall expression. We believe our design will fit and enhance the existing context.

Editor: Construction of the tower coincided with two of the coldest snaps in Chicago in over 30 years. Does that kind of intense cold affect the construction schedule, or are crews simply reassigned to other tasks in warmer/more complete portions of the building?

Kohn: The bad weather does have an effect on certain trades such as concrete and enclosure, and there have been days when they could not work. But all in all the schedule is being maintained.

Editor: What is your favorite feature of this building?

Kohn: One feature that I think will be very well received is the large function terrace and pool bar located at the third floor of the hotel. We were able to create a unique outdoor space for parties and functions that should attract a lot of business and activity for the hotel and is a great neighborhood destination.

Editor: Does this building incorporate any new or trending technologies or methods?

Loews Hotel Tower constructionKohn: From a construction standpoint the building is straightforward. However, in the residences and guestrooms, we are incorporating the most current technology for communication and wireless connectivity.

Editor: What are the LEED goals for this building, and how are they being achieved?

Kohn: Although the owner has decided not to seek LEED certification, nonetheless, we have incorporated many sustainable features that include green roofs, high performance enclosure, and energy efficient mechanical systems to name a few. As a firm, we encourage our clients to incorporate sustainable systems to the greatest extent feasible.

Editor: With such a narrow tower, and the need for hotel amenities below, it seems like there’s not much room for a green roof. Are you seeing developers starting to lean away from green roofs? We’re hearing that some regard them as a financially unsustainable gimmick.

Kohn: The City of Chicago is a strong advocate for green roofs and we design them into almost every project we do. Although there is an associated cost for a green roof, we believe that they are an attractive feature when they are incorporated on lower floors and setbacks. Guest and residents really enjoy looking down on a well-designed green rooftop. As a firm, we encourage our clients to incorporate them as they are effective means to control storm runoff.

Editor: The building is located very close to an old canal and in an industrial zone. Was anything noteworthy discovered in the construction of the building’s foundations? What are the challenges when building in a brownfield situation?

Kohn: Because of the site conditions and proximity to the lake we did not excavate a deep basement, so we did not encounter anything unexpected. The foundations are caissons which extend to about 80 ft below grade therefore they bypass the less suitable soil conditions at the upper elevations.


Thanks to Gary Kohn for taking the time to answer our questions!

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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