Two River North Skyscrapers Get Positive Reception At Coming-Out Party

720 North LaSalle drawing

720 North LaSalle drawing

A pair of River North residential high-rise developments received positive feedback from locals at the official coming-out party on Monday evening. Magellan Development presented plans for both buildings—a 39-story tower at 167 West Erie Street and a 38-story tower at 720 North LaSalle Street.

The height would have thrown my West Loop neighbors into a state of apoplexy, but for River North folks, a 400-foot-tall building is probably considered a low-rise.

167 West Erie Street drawing

167 West Erie Street drawing

It certainly didn’t hurt Magellan’s case that the two properties look kind of dismal right now. Tonight’s meeting was held at roughly the same address as the proposed Erie Street tower, where Gino’s East once held court serving up deep dish pizza, or as Jon Stewart calls it, “tomato soup.” Now, the only reminder of Gino’s East at 633 North Wells Street is a trio of giant, weathered, plywood pizza slices jutting into the spring air.

The 720 North LaSalle tower will rise where a sad Eisenhower-era Howard Johnson’s motel still stands. So, the two new buildings will certainly be a step up for this section of River North. The residents generally agreed, as did 42nd Ward Alderman Brendan Reilly, who hosted the meeting in conjunction with the River North Resident’s Association.

Reilly kicked off the meeting by explaining that he supported a planned development for the properties, because there would be no surprises once construction begins.

“I work for you and I negotiate for projects like I lived across the street from where the development will occur,” Reilly said. “Ironically, in this case, I really DO live across the street.”

Veteran barrister Jack George then introduced the developers, who described the design concept. The initial design for the 167 West Erie tower was primarily glass and steel. It did not go over particularly well with the R.N.R.A., so Magellan went back to the drawing board and created a brick-and-masonry structure that blends in much more cohesively to the surrounding buildings.

It will have 444 residential units, and 7,140 square feet of retail. A “lifestyle deck” with green space, a pool and other amenities will sit atop the next-door (existing) office building, and will connect to the new tower via a walkway. Units will include primarily 1 and 2-bedroom apartments, at approximately $3.25 per square foot.

Down the street a couple of blocks, the 720 North LaSalle tower will also boast a brick exterior, but it will have a more contemporary design, using contrasting light and dark gray brickwork along with glass. The key attraction, and one Alderman Reilly lobbied hard for, is a pocket park adjacent to the building. The 8,400 square foot park will exist in a portion of River North not known for green space.

Magellan officials called both developments “luxurious but affordable.” Affordability in the case of 720 North LaSalle comes in at about $3.40 per square foot.

The question and answer session following the presentation was mostly calm. A couple of residents expressed concern about the loading dock at 720, and the potential for more shade than sun at a pocket park connected to that building; but for the most part, the audience of about 100 was supportive.

A couple of River North residents who also operate businesses in the neighborhood said the area needed rental units for their employees who aren’t in a position to buy a home, and who likely don’t have an interest in decamping at an aging HoJo.

Bill Motchan

Author: Bill Motchan

Bill Motchan is a writer and photographer, and a former resident of the West Loop. He can be reached at bill@ChicagoArchitecture.org.

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