A Michigan Avenue building that never lived up to its potential may finally do so — and then some. 168 North Michigan Avenue was built back in 1916 as the headquarters of the Federal Life Insurance Company. It was designed by Marshall and Fox to be 16 stories tall, but only made it to 12. Even so, when the building opened, it was considered a showcase of modern aesthetics and luxury appointments.
In modern times, it was known as the Atlantic National Bank, a Greek bank that was the last to turn off the lights several years ago. It then became the domain of vagrants and pigeons. In recent years there have been a couple of plans to transform the building with the forlorn facade but prime location into a hotel. One even got started before being derailed along the way.
Now the building’s new owner is asking the city for permission not only to turn the structure into a 210-room hotel, but to add five — count ’em — five more floors to the high rise. That will not only take it to the height intended by Marshall and Fox, but exceed it by a floor.
If everything works out, 168 North Michigan will hopefully come back from the dead. As NASA said of astronaut Steve Austin, “We can rebuild him. We have the technology. We can make him better than he was. Better… stronger… faster.” But it’ll probably cost more than six million dollars.