Construction Update
Lakeshore East Moving Forward, Losing a Skyscraper

One of the first long-form articles we published in Chicago Architecture way back in October of 2003 was a preview of Lakeshore East.  Back then, the only building that had been erected was The Lancaster at 201 North Westshore Drive.  The rest of Lakeshore East was dirt and weeds and a former caddyshack that still sported a small luncheonette that refused to die.

My how things have changed.

From the curvalicious skyscraper that put Jeanne Gang on the map to the lickable glass lighthouses that mock Lake Michigan, to one of the best supermarkets in the city, the area has gone from near-wasteland to metropolitan neighborhood in just about the same amount of time as we’ve been publishing this blog.

Now Lakeshore East’s final chapters are about to be written, and one of them is missing.

Original 1970's plan for the northeast corner of Lakeshore East

Original 1970’s plan for the northeast corner of Lakeshore East

Alderman Brendan Reilly has called a public meeting to talk about the last four skyscrapers proposed for L.S.E.  That’s “four,” as in one less than “five,” the number of skyscrapers that Lakeshore East was originally laid out for.

What’s missing is Building L, originally intended to be a 45-story, 480-foot-tall tower on North Harbor Drive, across the driveway from the North Harbor Tower.

The entire plan for the northeast corner of Lakeshore East has been re-drawn.  Instead of four towers joined by townhouses encircling a formal square park, it’s become three towers, off the street grid, in a more informal  setting.  Much like the dramatic change of North Grant Park from Parisienne regulated garden into the exuberant Maggie Daley Park and Funfair.  What was once Buildings I, J, K, and L have become I, J, and K/L.

Together, the original four towers for this corner of Lakeshore East were intended to rise 1,695 feet — so, about 150 residential floors, meaning an average tower rise of 46 stories.  Will eliminating one of the towers now raise the average height of the buildings to 50 stories in order to make up the lost space?   We’ll find out on Monday, July 10th when Lendlease and Lakeshore East give a public presentation on their plans for the corner.

Original vision for the northeast corner of Lakeshore East

Original vision for the northeast corner of Lakeshore East

The interesting part is that it appears that the city will get another lakefront hotel.  We’d heard for years that the northeast corner of Lakeshore East was too valuable to waste on residential towers alone, and that a hotel will be part of the mix.  Now that notion has gone from scuttlebutt to reality.  The plan includes a 300-room hotel, along with the 1,400 residences in the three towers.

Reducing the number of towers, even with increased height, will certainly make the area feel more open and less like a giant wall locking the city away from the lake.  But it remains to be seen if the flanking and linking townhomes will still be built.  If so, we’re back to locking the public away from the city’s greatest visual resource. But there is hope: Lendlease wants to build 30,000 square feet of retail here as well.  So, even if low-rise construction happens, it could still be open to the public.

Meanwhile, things are still percolating over at Building O.

Rendering of Building O

Previous rendering of Building O

You’ll remember Building O as the Dagwood sandwich of two hotels and a residential block that was slated for the pit between Aqua (225 North Columbus Drive) and what is now 300 East Randolph Street.

In the original Lakeshore East plan, it was to stand 900 feet tall.  But later it sacrificed some of that height for its sister and ended up in the 600’s.  Then an article in the Sun-Times shed some doubt on the chances of it getting controversial overseas funding, and things went distinctly silent since then.

Now, according to Mr. Reilly, Lakeshore East is ready to move forward and finally put the O in Lakeshore East.  He says O will once again have two hotels, and this time 640 residences, so we could be looking at something very similar to the design that bKL put together a couple of years ago.  It will certainly have to be about the same stature.  If you’d like to refresh your memory, and get an idea of what we could be in for, check out our October 23, 2014 article The Story of O: Three Buildings In One.

Details of the latest plan will be revealed at the same public meeting mentioned above: July 10 at 6pm at the Hyatt Regency West Tower’s Ballroom.  Get there early, as a big crowd is expected.

New plan for the northeast corner of Lakeshore East

New plan for the northeast corner of Lakeshore East

Location: 195 North Columbus Drive, The Loop

Author: Editor

Editor founded the Chicago Architecture Blog in 2003, after a long career in journalism. He can be reached at

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