SOAR Gives Latest Streeterville Skyscraper a Big Thumb’s Up

This past summer, friends-of-the-blog Related Midwest made big waves in the Chicago skyscraper enthusiast community by promising to change the city’s skyline with its new project, 451 East Grand.

Drawing of 451 East Grand, courtesy of Robert A.M. Stern Associates

Drawing of 451 East Grand, courtesy of Robert A.M. Stern Associates

Related hired a big-name New York architect, picked a primo spot right along the lakefront, and unveiled a design that is a serious departure from the brick-on-a-block tower-and-podium designs that are the norm in this midwest burg.

So, what’s happened since then?

The minions at Robert A.M. Stern Associates in New York have been refining the design of the 843-foot-tall building to make it more palatable to Chicago tastes.  Does that mean the final design will look less Park Avenue and more Milwaukee Avenue?  That remains to be seen.  But we can get some hints about the changes coming down the pike from the people over at SOAR.

SOAR, which has earner a reputation over the years for shooting down many skyscraper projects, has actually given this one its blessing.  Its poo-bahs spent some time going over the Stern plans and according to a letter the organization sent to 42nd Ward Alderman Brendan Reilly, the developer agreed to make a few changes.  Among them:

  • The condominium entrance will be placed on East Grand Avenue, and the apartment-dwellers will enter on North Peshtigo Court.  No nasty mixing of the two classes of people like at other buildings.
  • There will be fewer residents to mix, anyway.  The number of residences in the building has been reduced from the initially announced 450 down to 350.
  • It looks like there will be mechanical elements on the East Illinois and North Peshtigo sides of the building, necessitating blank walls.  SOAR tells the alderman that Related has pledged to light the building in an interesting fashion, and landscape the walls to soften their impact on the local streetscape. “This highly trafficked area is important to the pedestrian’s experience along Illinois.”

Interestingly, one of the most common worries of community groups across the city is not one of SOAR’s: traffic.  In SOAR’s estimation, the building won’t add significantly to the local traffic problems.  That doesn’t mean there aren’t any.  The group points to illegal parking on Peshtigo as an ongoing problem, and recommends that CDOT remove the parking meters to keep the traffic moving.

In a pointed jab at Illinois’ most popular tourist attraction, the letter continues, “The traffic generated by Navy Pier visitors requires further discussions with Navy Pier and their commitment to the community.”  It sounds like a very polite way of saying, “We’re tired of dealing with your problems, Navy Pier.  Get your crap together or else.”  Who in Chicago has the clout to take on Navy Pier?  Pretty much just SOAR.  Ask any of the developers who have lost battles against the group.

Location: 451 East Grand Avenue, Streeterville


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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