Alderman Says There’s No Vacancy For a 60-Story Tower at Superior and Wabash

Chicago vice-mayor, and serial hotel killer, Brendan Reilly has struck again.  The 42nd Ward Alderman has axed a plan by New York’s Symmetry Property Development to put up a 60-story SOM-designed hotel and residential tower named The Carillon on West Superior Street and North Wabash Avenue, just behind Holy Name Cathedral.

Slide from Carillon public meeting (via Alderman Brendan Reilly's office)

Oh, Carillon, we hardly knew ye.

In a letter to his constituents, he says there’s simply too much congestion in that location, and the developer’s plan to use a back alley to circumvent the problem is a non-starter.

I personally visited the site on several different days to observe loading activities and traffic patterns occurring in the alley.  Based on my personal observations, the proposed parking and loading scheme that would utilize the public alley simply will not work for this proposal.
We also registered numerous concerns related to existing traffic circulation (or lack thereof) in the immediate neighborhood. Having observed the (poor) functionality of Superior Street during the afternoon and evening hours – the vehicular traffic on that street is currently reduced to one lane, eastbound on a routine basis. It is fair to assume additional curbside activities like taxicabs; Uber, limousine service and party buses will spill over onto (virtually non-functioning) Superior Street and exacerbate an already-untenable condition.

Further on, he gets to the root of the matter.  It’s not that the devloper’s plan is bad, it’s just that the city is currently doing a terrible job of managing traffic in the area.

The poor traffic conditions on Superior Street and conflicts with potential usage of the public alley for ingress/egress to the site are compounded by the congestion resulting from pick-ups in the western-most southbound traffic lane at the Frances Xavier Warde School on the west side of Wabash Avenue. This must be addressed regardless of a new development.
There are also valid concerns about the intensity of the multiple uses on the site. Symmetry’s proposal would call for a 725-foot tall, 60-story tower containing 216 hotel keys, 120 timeshare units, 246 condominium units and roughly 30,000 square feet of retail at-grade. This combination of uses suggests heavy volumes of deliveries, curbside pick-up/drop-off, special event traffic and buses. It’s simply too much for this block.

Does this mean the end of high-rise development for this parcel?  It’s hard to say.  Back in 2013, Mr. Reilly not only slammed the door on the development of a Hyatt House on the roof of the parking garage at 403 North Wabash Avenue, he chopped the door down, burned the splinters,  buried the ashes in an Indiana cornfield and covered them with concrete.

However, Reilly isn’t completely unreasonable.  When he was first elected to office, he went so far as to revoke the PD zoning for the Cedar Hotel’s proposed 20-story tower to undo a perceived injustice by his predecessor, Burt Natarus, even though the property was no longer part of his ward.  Among his supporters, there was much rejoicing and waving of tiny flags.

But if you visit the Cedar Hotel location today, what do you see?  An 18-story Viceroy Hotel.

Reilly sent a letter to the foiled developers of The Carillon suggesting that maybe instead of a 60-story tower with special zoning, they might consider something that doesn’t actually require his approval.  So what we described four years ago as the alderman’s “War on Pillow Mints” may not be so much a war, but a set of tactical skirmishes.

Reilly notes that a building 330 feet tall would fit within the property’s current DX-12 zoning.  That’s about 28 stories.  He might also be more supportive of a single use for the building, like 350 apartments.  But the recently deceased idea of a hotel plus condos plus timeshares isn’t going anywhere.

Editor

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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