For almost two years I’ve been chasing a ghost. I’ve seen glimpses of it. Drawings. Sketches. A hint here, an accidentally dropped statistic there. Some meaningful “no comments” from just the right people. Papers on a desk quickly covered up if I glanced at them too long. Like a fat, bearded hillbilly chasing Bigfoot on basic cable, I’ve been convinced it’s real, even when other people told me get a grip and take my meds.
But now, Ahab finally smells fresh whale meat. To the last I grapple with thee; from hell’s heart I stab at thee; for hate’s sake I spit my last breath at thee, Building O.
Building O (201 North Columbus Drive) is the newest skyscraper coming to Lakeshore East, the upscale waterside enclave that sprouts skyscrapers like zits on a sweaty teenager’s back. “Building O” is a terrible name. Going back to when Lakeshore East was originally laid out in the 1970’s, all of the future buildings were given a letter until they could later be given a name. It was a good idea, because if the Illinois Central Gulf Railroad Company has been allowed to actually name the buildings when it laid them out back in 1978, we’d have skyscrapers called The Coleco, The Lowenbrau, and the Hervé Villechaize Towers. Instead Lakeshore East ended up with sensible names like 340 on the Park, The Shoreham, and The Chandler. Oh, wait…
Aqua was Building P. The Shoreham was Building G. 340 and the Chandler were buildings N and H respectively. The new skyscraper that will straddle Field Boulevard two blocks away was Building C until we found out it was backed by China’s richest man and now it’s being called the Wanda Tower.
So, what is it that’s taken Building O from maps and legends into the realm of the future real? One wonderful, important, and very concrete piece of information: McHugh Construction is taking bids from subcontractors for “Lakeshore East Parcel O.” And those bids are due by October 15th.
At this time, I’d like to thank the anonymous tipster who hit our tip line with the information, and a web link to the proof. I don’t know who you are, but you’ve helped keep the men with the white jacket away for another day.
Building O is going to be big. It gets slotted into that gaping five-story-deep hole just south of Aqua. That space is zoned for a tower up to 900 feet tall. Before Aqua was built, its space had the same ceiling. Aqua ended up 83 stories and 870 feet tall. Building O is going to ruin an awful lot of views from the Aqua tower.
Or maybe not. Over the last 21 months, I’ve heard a lot of rumors about the building’s configuration. First, Building O was going to be two hotels stacked one upon the other. Then it was going to be apartments and offices. Then it was going to be just offices. And most recently, the entire building would be shortened to just 50-stories so that the Aqua condo owners next door wouldn’t lose their views. At Aqua, just a CVS away from Building O, the hotel is on floors 3 through 19, and apartments are on floors 20 through 52. The people living on those floors haven’t paid hundreds of thousands of dollars to the developer for the privilege, so screw them. The logic is to only preserve the views of those willing to make a six or seven-figure commitment. Everyone else can just move if they don’t like the view.
The only people who know for sure work at Magellan Development and McHugh Construction, plus the architecture firm that designed the tower. But earlier this year Crain’s Chicago Business speculated that the next building to rise at Lakeshore East would be an office tower. If that’s true, the Building O site makes the most sense for that use because its neighbors are the 300 East Randolph office tower, the Aon Center, and the Fairmont Hotel.