Are These the First Baby Steps of a New Skyscraper?


For more than a decade we’ve been keeping an eye on the vacant lot at 300 West Washington Street wondering how a Grade A Prime Kobe-quality real estate like this can remain a vacant lot for so long.

The most recent plan approved by the city for this parcel was back in 2004 when the green light was given to build a parking lot here.  But it never happened, and the city revoked its permission in 2011.

Before that, in 1997 the city approved a plan to use this property as… a parking lot.  But that didn’t happen, either.

In 1989, the city signed off on a plan to build, you guessed it, a parking lot here.  And once again, nothing came of it.

IMG_2717In fact, this space has been mostly a vacant lot since at least 2002.  That was when the 17-story 1927 office building known as the Chicago Mercantile Exchange was torn down.  While it was love by some, it ended life with repeated building code violations for things like, “[Failure] to maintain building or structure in a structurally safe and stable condition.”

But now, thanks to photographs sent in by Loop Spy Dan (Not to be confused with Loop Spy Daniel), we can see that something is happening at the long-suffering lot.

This week, crews have been probing the earth beneath 300 West Washington searching for old tunnels.  How do we know? Because they put up a bunch of yellow flags reading “Tunnel Probe.”  So, not exactly a Holmesian feat of deduction on our part.  The smart money is on them looking for the old freight tunnels that run under the city.  The ones that facilitated the Great Flood of Chicago in 1992.  And considering its location, maybe they’re also looking for an old portal to one of the many horse/trolley tunnels that once ran under the Chicago River.  I know there are some real experts in that area who read this blog, so if I’m off base here, let me know in the comments.

Drawing of 130 North Franklin courtesy of Krueck and Sexton Architects

Drawing of 130 North Franklin courtesy of Krueck and Sexton Architects

Knowing what surprises are buried underneath your property is an essential first step toward designing a foundation and building a skyscraper.  After all, it was soil-probing machinery that tipped us off to what would eventually become 200 North Michigan Avenue.  Could the same thing be happening here?

Maybe.  Tishman Speyer has plans for a 48-story glass tower at this location that it’s calling 130 North Franklin.  The tower looks like a big brother of the Spertus Institute of Jewish Studies at 610 South Michigan Avenue. Thats because both were designed by River North architecture firm Krueck+Sexton.  The firm describes the building this way:

Our latest and largest project in Chicago, 130 North Franklin Street rises 48 stories above Chicago’s West Loop, towering above surrounding buildings. The unmistakable design is developer Tishman’s Speyer’s first major venture following the 2008 recession. Designed for optimum envelope performance and abundance of daylight, the articulated façade permits views parallel and perpendicular to the urban fabric, a unique opportunity for tenants to experience the city. The project is being designed with a LEED-Gold target.

Last year K+S principal Mark Krueck told The Architect’s Newspaper that he’d move his firm into the building when it was built.  Hopefully it’s time for Mr. Krueck to get on the blower with U-Haul.

The following drawings of 130 North Franklin courtesy of Krueck and Sexton Architects:

Location: 300 West Washington/130 North Franklin, The Loop

This article is the result of photos sent in by someone just like you. If you see something interesting in your neighborhood, e-mail your phone pics to  Check out our Tip Line for ways to tip us off by text message and anonymous drop box.


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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