OneEleven Resurrects a Dead High-Rise as a Gleaming New Skyscraper

 

 

OneEleven West Wacker Lobby Artwork

OneEleven West Wacker Lobby Artwork

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.

OneEleven West Wacker

OneEleven West Wacker

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.

OneEleven West Wacker Amenities Floor

OneEleven West Wacker Amenities Floor

“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.”

Location: 111 West Wacker Drive, The Loop

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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3 Comments

  1. All I see is pure mediocrity and a plateaued Wacker Drive street-wall. Related has deep pockets and could have completed the tower as originally designed, but instead of being bold, they gave us bored.

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    • Bill Motchan

      I’m not an architect, and my skills at building and design are questionable (see http://www.chicagoarchitecture.org/2014/07/18/its-chicago-architects-versus-kids-in-a-battle-of-legos/), but I think Related and Gary Handel created a masterpiece. Walk back a block or so to State and Wacker and look west. I believe OneEleven West Wacker fits in very nicely. It’s also worth noting that the developer had to work with an existing sort-of semi-constructed building and making it look cohesive. Not a little one, either, but rather 25 stories of concrete.

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  2. One Eleven West Wacker is without doubt one of the best skyscrapers in the world. The architects deserve the level of appreciation they’re getting.

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