Pop quiz time.
Question: How many non-park undeveloped spaces are there along North Lake Shore Drive between the Chicago River and Diversey Harbor?
Answer: One. The surface parking lot at 69 East Banks Street. But hopefully not for long.
Chicago multi-disciplinary real estate octopus Draper and Kramer has added the surface parking lot to its list of “Active Projects.” Except, instead of keeping it a craptastic parkatorium, D&K’s web site shows it as a modestly tasteful low-rise apartment building by the name of “65 E. Banks.”
Messrs. Draper and Kramer describe the location as “prime,” and this is one of the few times we can actually agree with real estate hype. The building will offer unobstructed — and unobstructable — views of Lake Michigan to the east, and is ensconced in a hotdish of landmarked buildings and districts so thick that, barring a Godzilla-triggered seiche, the rest of the neighborhood isn’t going to lose its genteel, leafy character in your lifetime or mine. A toaster on the space station couldn’t make this location more upper crust.
The cartoon angel on your left shoulder is asking, “If it’s such a good location, why is it only eight stories and 60 units?” The cartoon devil on your right shoulder knows the answer: Deep-pocketed and litigious neighbors who live in nearby skyscrapers blocking other people’s views who don’t, in turn, want their views blocked. They got theirs; everyone else can go pound sand.
Forty-second Ward Alderman Brendan Reilly is famous for telling people at public meetings that in Chicago nobody’s views are guaranteed. Next time he says that in the Gold Coast, watch to see if he crosses his fingers, because like everything else in Chicago, money talks. This is a case where the views have been bought and paid for.