Wanda Tower Loses One Floor, Internet Loses its Mind

Editor’s note: It’s not often I publish an article like this, but some days when you wake up and the cats are fighting and you’re out of milk and one communist nation is making threats while another communist nation is cozying up to your government, you just need to rant a little. In the greatest MacBeth-ian tradition, this article is “A tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury signifying nothing. Don’t read it.”

More than five months after we, followed by the Wall Street Journal, and every other print publication in America, told you that China’s Wanda Group was planning to build a new 89-story tower in Lakeshore East, Wednesday morning the Chicago Tribune discovered the story and published a mostly-potatoes-and-little-meat article telling you nothing you didn’t already know if you read this blog.

Drawing of the Wanda Tower at Lakeshore East

Drawing of the Wanda Tower at Lakeshore East, courtesy of the Wanda Group

In fact, the morning Trib article contained but a fraction of the information listed in a follow-up article we published back in October.  The one nugget of information it had was as stale as vending machine sandwich.

Months ago, we’d already confirmed for you that architecture pop media darling Jeanne Gang was the sculptress of the wavy three-segment tower, even though the Tribune’s architecture critic seems to think his employer stumbled upon some blockbuster new information. He banged out the following urgent tweet:

Trib exclusive: Jeanne Gang to design Chinese-backed high-rise, Chicago’s 3rd tallest building.

That’s pretty much confirmation that no one over at the Tribune reads this blog.  Which is strange, since the Sun-Times and Crain’s do.  Every day.  Kinda explains why the Sun-Times is eating the Tribune’s lunch circulation-wise.

Our good friends over at Curbed fell for it, too, headlining a story “That Studio Gang-Designed Supertall Just Got Way More Real.”  Really?  How much more real does it get than the richest man in China putting out a press release with a picture of the building and a laundry list of statistics?  Being in the Tribune doesn’t make something real, unless you live in Winnetka, own a smoking jacket, and have children named Buffy and Chad.

Then Wednesday afternoon, Chicago’s paper of record seemed poised to redeemed itself.  Or so we thought.  Architecture beat big gun Blair Kamin was brought in to get some additional information.  He tweeted that he’d have new details after 10pm,  gleaned from the 25th annual U.S.-China Joint Commission on Commerce and Trade meeting which is now happening in Chicago.  It’s an event the likes of which we could never get in to, so we’re more than happy to give the credit to Big J journalists like Mr. Kamin when warranted. Sadly, it wasn’t.

His big scoop that has the internet falling over itself in drooling admiration?  The Wanda Tower will be 88 floors, not 89.  And it’s been turned around so the tall end is on the Loop side.

No stacking diagram. No new hotel room count.  No new condo numbers.  No change in the time line from what we had. Nothing new but a quote from the mayor to the effect of, “$900 million?  Yes, please!”  Oh, and one of our spies who has a habit of being very right about things, says the 89-floor figure could still be a reality because the 89th floor was going to be all mechanical anyway.  It would just be marketed as 88 floors to appeal to numerology-concerned  customers.

The Chinese conference is ongoing, so Mr. Kamin still has an opportunity to prove me dead flat wrong.  I welcome the opportunity for him to shout “pants on fire” at me, because it means more information about the project will be made public.  That’s assuming he’s not too busy penning yet another breathless fawning article about a building in Connecticut for the Chicago Tribune.

To be clear, this is not a hatchet job on Kamin, or our friends over at Curbed.  Or the legions of mouth-breathing, basement-dwelling internet architecture nerds who have made this publication so successful.  I’ve seen Kamin around town maybe a dozen times; even had to step around him once because he thought that the middle of a sidewalk on State Street was a good place to stand and take notes. But we’ve never been formally introduced.  It’s not about him.  This is about the old Big Media drumbeat “Be careful where you get your news from.”  It used to be a warning about the rise of blogs and independent journalism.  Today all I can say is, “Right back at ‘ya.”

Full disclosure: The author of this screed is a former Tribune employee with little love for his former overlords.


Author: Editor

Editor founded the Chicago Architecture Blog in 2003, after a long career in journalism. He can be reached at chicagoarchitectureinfo@gmail.com.

Share This Post On