While Trib Tower Redevelopers Salivate, Alderman Urges Caution

In any city as old and complex as Chicago, there are bound to be quirks of history that affect modern day development. The protected cattle path through the heart of the Loop is one example we’ve told you about over the years. Another is the view corridor in Streeterville.

We last reviewed this municipal oddity in June of 2015 when we were explaining to you why the new skyscraper coming to 465 North Park Drive is situated where it is. To quote ourselves:

It is absolutely verboten to block the view of the one mighty media empire headquarters from the gash of inland waterway that allows people to sail from McClurg Court to the open waters of Lake Michigan, or the Big Muddy down south. Architects take great pains positioning their buildings to preserve the 100° view corridor, and lawyers spend lots of time documenting the effort so as not to run afoul of a city reg that seem[s] as outdated as it is obscure.

If you have a hard time imagining what a view corridor looks like, then enjoy the accompanying diagram that friends-of-the-blog SCB put together for the city when it designed the Loews Hotel tower next door.

Diagram of the Tribune Tower - Ogden Slip view corridor

This is what it looks like when an architect tries to avoid violating the view corridor between Ogden Slip and the Tribune Tower. In this case, it’s SCB doing it for the Loews Hotel tower

Tribune Tower with For Sale signWhich brings us to the present day, and the recent sale of the Tribune Tower on Michigan Avenue to CIM Group. The chocolate ice cream in that Neapolitan sundae of a deal was the parking lot behind the journalism joint that could easily hold a very nice, very profitable little skyscraper. In addition, there are rumblings that the Trib Tower portion of Pioneer Court could be transformed into retail space. It’s already the outdoor patio for the Howells & Hood restaurant. A proper building would allow year-round income.

With those thoughts in mind, Chicago Tribune architecture critic Blair Kamin approached 42nd Ward Alderman Brendan Reilly with a gleam in his eye and pencil in his hand to find out what the bureaucrat believes about the budding blocking building babble. Alderman Reilly told Mr. Kamin that he is going to do what he can to “avoid” retail development on Pioneer Plaza.

But what about the parking lot behind the tower? Well, the rough studies we’ve seen over the years have always situated the new skyscraper on the north end of the plot, presumably to preserve the view corridor. Mr. Kamen notes that neither the former Tribune printing plant annex, nor the former WGN-TV addition have the same landmark protection as the actual tower portion of the Tribune Tower. So, there would seemingly be no reason they couldn’t be ripped out and replaced by something really amazing.

2014 Massing study for potential second Tribune Tower and additional building

2014 Massing study for potential second Tribune Tower and additional building

Or really mediocre. Remember what happened next door in 1961 when what is now the Intercontinental Hotel got its second tower? The result is only marginally better than the surface parking lot it replaced. Let’s hope that Tribune Tower II does the original some justice, and isn’t just another bland box that does nothing more than put people in one end, and churn dollar bills out the other.


Location: 435 North Chicago Avenue, Streeterville

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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