Forget the Shovel, This New Highrise Needs a Shoehorn

403 North Wabash diagram

The previous plan for 403 North Wabash Avenue. Just erase the word “hotel” and write in “condo.”

Not that many years ago, when this blog was just a toddler, the corner of North Wabash Avenue and Lower East North Water Street was a place where you’d go to hide from the world, get a cheap hamburger, and read the bulldog edition of the Sun-Times while trains crept by and the air filled with the smell of diesel and ink.

The corner still exists, but the hamburger stand is in limbo.  The trains no longer roll through.  And the grubby journalists and hobos have been replaced by Spandexed metrosexuals walking trophy dogs no bigger than cats.  This is now an area so in demand that it sports an incubator husbanded by the city’s most prominent dot-com, two hotels that cost more per night than the city’s average weekly wage, and a shopping mall so exclusive it has no shops.

With that kind of gravitas, it’s no wonder that yet another building is going to be shoehorned into the nexus.

We have confirmed that 403 North Wabash is actually a thing, and under active development.  It will be a glassy 18-story condominium tower squeezed onto the plaza bounded by East Hubbard Street, East North Water Street, North Wabash Avenue, and the residential building at 405 North Wabash.

You may remember that back in 2013 there was a proposal to build a hotel on this spot.  A proposal that so incensed 42nd Ward Alderman Brendan Reilly that he had the zoning changed to very specifically prohibit hotels in this space.  Seriously.  The ordinance which was passed in February of last year actually reads “Hotel and motel uses shall not be permitted.”  You don’t argue with “shall not.”  It’s in the Bible.

Flash forward a year later, and now the plan is to put up a condominium instead.  A new plan means a new architect, and your whispers into our tip line match up nicely with the word on the street and the songs of the red winged blackbirds in Grant Park.  Everyone’s singing the same tune: bKL Architecture.

Why only 18 stories?  Well, this isn’t New York, bub.  The whole anorexic condo tower fad hasn’t landed here just yet.  18 stories also plays well with the neighbors.  That would put it right at the height of the first setback of the nearby Wrigley Building.  It also matches the height of the first setback of the Trump Tower next door, only blocking the news from the parking garage.  And what about the existing residential tower at 405 North Wabash?  Well, the new building is being built by the people who own that building, so no harm, no foul.

Location: 403 North Wabash Avenue, Near North



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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