The upgrade in ballrooms at the Radisson Blu Aqua (225 North Columbus Drive) turned out to be a great call, as hundreds of people packed the seats the hear Alderman Brendan Reilly (42nd) introduce the latest revision to Chicago’s next big thing — The Wanda Vista Tower (381 East Wacker Drive).
Rest assured, it wasn’t just the tables full of cookies the crowd wanted to see. Downtown residents were eager to get their first official glimpses of the latest plans from Studio Gang for the project along the Chicago River. And the details didn’t disappoint.
- At its highest point, the building will be “about” 1,200 feet, though an official height of 1,144 feet is expected
- The highest portion of the three interconnected towers will have 93 floors
- The lower floors will contain 169 hotel rooms
- Upper floors will be comprised of 405 condo units
- There will be 410 parking spaces
- No retail space is included
- Total cost of “nearly one billion dollars”
- Field Boulevard connecting Lower Wacker Drive with Lakeshore East will be preserved and run through the new skyscraper
- The Park at Lakeshore East itself will extend beneath the tower to meet up with the Chicago Riverwalk.
Magellan Properties Senior Vice President Sean Linnane, as well as design architect Jeanne Gang herself, were on hand to go over the building’s aesthetics, introducing attendees to the word “frustum,” a sort of pyramid shape that’s been sliced in half. The tower — actually three towers side-by-side — would have the appearance of several of these said “frustums” stacked one upon the other.
When the time came for audience participation, there were the usual concerns about traffic. Understandable when adding 400 new residences to a cozy neighborhood like Lakeshore East that also just opened a busy new school right next to the planned location of the Wanda tower. After a quick side trip into aldermanic politics, the crowd got back on track with questions about the wind (Jeanne Gang assured they have tested the model in a wind tunnel) and the duration of project (approximately three years from ground breaking to occupancy, with the former hopefully starting in 2016).
With Wanda’s location on Wacker Drive, many in the crowd brought up the problem of traffic noise, and specifically, motorcycles that zoom up and down Lower Wacker Drive at all hours of the night. Alderman Reilly explained his recent actions to address that issue, including allowing the police department to inspect and impound motorcycles with modified mufflers.
The alderman also spoke to concerns from dog owners that the freedom to walk their pets seems to be fleeting, what with the Parks District’s recent ban on dogs in nearby Maggie Daley Park, and construction on the horizon to the north and east of Lakeshore East. As usual, the local bird lovers chimed in, concerned about the types of glass to be used on the exterior of the building. Jeanne Gang, herself a bird watcher, said she has given careful consideration to that very subject.
More than once during the evening, Alderman Reilly reminded everyone that this was an early step in the life of Wanda Vista Tower, and there was still a long way to go before any denial or approval would be given. But this is a big, shiny, textured wonder. And with Jeanne Gang taking the wheel, still basking in the glow of her award-winning Aqua Tower, it sure seems to have hit the ground running.