Slice of Life: There’s a Crane War on Wells Street

640 North Wells tower crane stump

640 North Wells’ entry in the Tower Crane Wars.

As anyone who’s not afraid to make up a good cliche will tell you, skyscraper construction is a marathon, not a sprint. An endurance race meant to be finished, not won. A test of stamina where every finisher is a winner. Or something like that.

In the grand tradition of Chicago’s North Side vs South Side baseball battle, there’s a new East vs West standoff shaping up in River North, where two opposing construction teams are fighting it out in a rivalry we’ve invented in our own minds at Chicago Architecture.

On one side of Wells Street (don’t let the 167 West Erie Street address fool you) Linn-Mathes workers are busy on a 40-story rental tower on the site where Gino’s East formerly served pizza slices. And immediately across the street, Lend Lease Construction is building 640 North Wells, a 23-story tower on the old Ed Debevic’s location.

Last month, we reported in this very space that 167 West Erie had planted the beginnings of its tower crane. Not to be outdone, 640 North Wells has put down roots on its own tower crane. The thing is though, that’s about as far as either has come. The 640 stump might be a tad less stumpy than its counterpart across the street, but neither is capable of hoisting more than a lunch pail any time soon.

But one must remember, we made this whole rivalry up ourselves. They’ve got a lot of digging to do over on the east side of the street, so there’s no need to have a fully-functioning tower crane just yet. And if, in fact, this really was a real battle? That would have ended before the first pitch was thrown, seeing how 167 West Erie will be nearly twice the size of 640 North Wells.

Still, the west-side tower will always have one thing to hang its hat on in this fantasy clash of construction crews: its community meeting was held at the new Gino’s East. And as far as we know, residents had no such opportunity to approve or disapprove of plans for 167 West Erie at a new Ed’s diner. Advantage, 640.




Location: 640 North Wells Street, River North

Author: Daniel Schell

Daniel Schell is a West Loop social media addict who lives for Cubs baseball, good pizza, and big cities. If you bump into him on the street, it's likely because he's taking photos instead of watching where he's going, and he apologizes.

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