Essex Inn Wants to Fill In A Michigan Avenue Streetwall Gap

Architecture books, tour guides, and teachers like to talk about Chicago’s “streetwall” — the line of stately buildings flush against Michigan Avenue staring at Grant Park.  But there are some notable gaps in this architectural wonder.  One of those may soon be filled in.

South Loop Spy David hit the tip line to let us know that the Essex Inn is asking the city for permission not only to renovate, but to expand.  He received a letter from the developer’s lawyer detailing the proposal.

It wants to refurbish the existing 15-story tower at 800 South Michigan Avenue, and then replace the low-rise portion immediately to the south with a 48-story residential tower.

The new building would have 400 residences above parking and ground-floor retail space.  There’s not much space here, so there’s a chance that we won’t see an off-the-shelf Chicago parking podium followed by a tower.  This could be more like 200 North Michigan where the non-tower portion is remarkably minimal compared to its contemporaries going up across the city.

But what might 48 stories of building look like pressed up against Grant Park?  We’re glad you asked:

Essex Tower

It’s two more floors than The Columbian, and five more than 1130 South Michigan, both one block south; and two more than 901 South Wabash, one block west.  So, large, but not unprecedented for the area.  There are taller buildings not too far away.  One Museum Park East dwarfs it with 65 stories two blocks southeast.

Location: 800 South Michigan Avenue, South Loop


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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