A Zombie Skyscraper Plan Thrusts Its Fist From the Loop Loam

It’s been about six years since we last heard anything from the plan to put a southern addition on to the residential building at 151 North Michigan Avenue known these days as Millennium Park Plaza.  And what happens every six years?  That’s right, city building permissions expire.

Rendering of the 2007 151 North Michigan addition proposal (Courtesy of SCB)

Rendering of the 2007 151 North Michigan addition proposal (Courtesy of SCB)

So it is little surprise that Crain’s Chicago Business picked up on the movement of paperwork at the county level for the long and repeatedly-proposed addition to the recently renovated building.

In 2007, back just before the economy ate itself, the plan was to put up a 41-story residential tower addition sporting a three-story restaurant at its base and a winter garden at its top.  It would have added 74 new residences on 37 floors to the 549 already in the main building.

The design by SCB would have added a lovely, curvy, glassy, blue-y end cap onto what is otherwise a drab, beige building reminiscent of the cigarettes that once shared its name when it was called Doral Plaza.

The city approved the plan, the restaurant under the glass dome at this location eventually closed, construction fences went up and… nothing.

Two years later, another plan was floated which did away with the big fancy restaurant, added 111 more apartments (for a total of 734), and 28 parking spaces to be leased from CDOT.  On March 23rd the Plan Commission issued the bureaucratic paperwork equivalent of an “awww, hell no!” when it said the new proposal was in “substantial nonconformance.”

The last movement on this project was in 2009 when the building’s owners figured out that the skyscraper’s roof couldn’t handle the weight of a green roof the size of the one required by the city of Chicago.  They filed papers with the Plan Commission asking pretty please to be relived of that burden and to be allowed to install a white membrane on both the old roof and the new roof, instead.

The Plan Commission gave half of what the developers wanted — Permission to use the white membrane.  But the commission ruled that it had to be installed on the old building separately from the new building in case the new building never got built.  And we all know what happened there.

So is this new heartbeat a sign that this skyscraper may finally spring to life?  Well, someone is certainly paying a lawyer or two to lube up the paddles and put a digital clippy thing on its index finger.  And with the current red-hot state of the downtown residential and hotel markets, it’s as good a time as any to shout “clear,” stand back and see if this project starts to go beep… beep… beep..

Millennium Park Plaza before addition

Location: 151 North Michigan Avenue, The Loop

Author: Editor

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

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