From Florida to California and the fly-over country in-between, America is dotted with half-built abandoned commercial developments.
The empty, forlorn hulk of the partially completed Waterview Tower, built in 2008, could very well have sat untouched for many more years. Then Related Midwest took a chance on it, pulled out all the stops on a massive do-over, and voila! OneEleven West Wacker was re-born.
It’s 60 stories tall (lower by 29 than the originally planned 89) and now consists exclusively of rental units (rather than the hotel/condo mix of Waterview). But, it fits in nicely among the office towers along this prime stretch of West Wacker Drive at Clark Street.
And more importantly, OneEleven West Wacker, just weeks old, is already hopping with 100 units rented and more tenants coming on board. I wouldn’t be surprised if they fill all 503 by this fall. I toured the tower this week, and it certainly has every bell and whistle a renter could want:
- Doorman and front desk attendant
- Well-appointed lobby with unique light fixtures and original artwork (including a piece that looks like a static painting, but is actually an animated, ever-so-slightly moving bouquet of flowers)
- An amenities floor with top-notch facilities, like a gym and billiard room
- Eye-popping views from the outdoor deck and picnic/barbecue area
The units are well designed, too. Even the 500-square foot studio (at $2,000/month) felt roomy. Prices go up from there, hitting nearly $12,000/month for one of the four 4,000-square foot penthouse suites.
Look up at the tower from the street and the first thing you notice is a series of notches that run along the glass exterior. They exist as part design element, part functional, according to Ann Thompson, senior vice president of architecture and design at Related Midwest.
“We had a competition to select an architect and the winner was [New York City-based] Gary Handel,” she said. “Gary had to develop a strategy to take the existing 25 stories of concrete that was here and incorporate it into a new building with a new function. His proposal was to use what we call ‘the river,’ the aesthetic device of the notch that runs along the building.
“That’s what he used to join the old building with the new parts of the building. He also was very specific about material—and he had to decide whether it should fit in contextually, or call itself out—which it does—so he moved to an all-glass façade rather than limestone, and it’s the only residential structure along West Wacker that introduces a new material.”
The other tricky part about the site, Thompson said, was that it had lots of hard edges. It looked right at home alongside the commercial Loop buildings on Wacker, but perhaps lacked the warmth of a residential structure. Handel came up with a creative solution to that, too. He developed an immense bronze sculpture—a filigree of sorts—that will be installed within the next few weeks just above the front entrance.
Right now, the sculpture is on a gigantic flatbed truck on its way to Chicago from Kansas City, where it was laser-cut by a team of experts in that very specialized field (and no slouches, either; the company has done work for a number of Frank Gehry-designed structures).
Once that piece is in place, OneEleven West Wacker will have just about completed its transformation from likely white elephant to a sleek elegant swan. It was no easy task, Thompson said.
“Almost every developer in the city looked at it and tried to figure out what to do with it,” she said. “The way we morphed it and developed it is really interesting. When we started construction, people were excited to see something happening here. It was a very difficult project, there’s no way around that, from the financing side, the legal side, and of course, the design side.”