Gasp-Worthy Proposal Unveiled for Chicago’s Second-Tallest Skyscraper

Rendering of the proposed Tribune East (via CIM Group)

Rendering of the proposed Tribune East (via CIM Group)

As the kids say these days: “Oh. My. God.”

That was the reaction — positive and negative — to the proposed new skyscraper unveiled tonight at a public meeting at the Sheraton Grand Chicago.

Development duo CIM Group and Golub & Co. pulled the sheet off of a stunning new skyscraper proposal that, at 1,422 feet, would be the second-tallest building in Chicago.  It’s planned for the surface parking lot behind the Tribune Tower.  CIM bought both in 2016 for $240 million.

Rendering of the proposed Tribune East (via CIM Group)

Rendering of the proposed Tribune East (via CIM Group)

CIM has extensive plans for redeveloping the Tribune Tower (435 North Michigan Avenue) into 163 luxury condominiums and 47,500 square feet of retail space.

But the star of the show was the massive mixed-use tower, currently called Tribune East.  It features 10,700 square feet of ground floor retail space, topped by five floors of parking, 200 hotel rooms, 439 apartments, and 125 condos.

It would be just 29 feet shorter than the Willis Tower, and trump the Trump International Hotel and Tower’s bogus height-supplementing spire by 33 feet.  Trib East will clock in with the most floors of any building in Chicago at 113.  By comparison, the Willis Tower has 108, the John Hancock Center 100, Trump 98, and the under-construction Vista Tower 95.

Naturally, the big question is: Will it get built?  As is usually the case in Chicago, the answer is a qualified “maybe.”  But consider these points:

  • As we predicted, the building is mostly contained to the northern portion of the site, preserving the codified sight line from Ogden Slip to the Tribune Tower.
  • Very often big proposals downtown die because of traffic concerns.  Unlike most towers in Chicago, this building has a lower level connected to the street grid, so much of the traffic goes underground and away from the surface street congestion.
  • Ditto for parking.  The building will have the neighboring Tribune Tower’s five-story parking garage, so there shouldn’t be an impact on the availability of parking in the neighborhood.
  • CIM has proven itself coast-to-coast as capable of handling a project this size, both from a financial and logistics perspective.
  • However, construction isn’t expected to begin until the original Tribune Tower’s transformation is complete.  Anything could happen in the intervening years.

It’s possible that neighborhood group SOAR may get behind this one.  SOAR used to be a hard-core NIMBY group, but has evolved in recent years.  While at one time it lambasted the never-built Streeterville version of the Waldorf-Astoria Tower, some of its members now see that as a missed opportunity.  And it welcomed the enormous One Bennett Park to the neighborhood, in part because of its tasteful and distinctive (for Chicago) style.

Atlanta's 1180 Peachtree, completed in 2006.

Atlanta’s 1180 Peachtree, completed in 2006.

The CIM/Golub tower is certainly distinctive, too.  It’s something of an updated, elongated, sophisticated version of Atlanta’s 1180 Peachtree, with tall curving fins sheltering an inner core.  Except that  the Chicago version is more than double the height of Atlanta’s.

Interestingly, this may be an opportunity to create Chicago’s most exclusive address.  The western edge of the Trib Tower parking lot will be restored as a below-grade street, taking the name Old Saint Clair Street.  The street beneath what is now Cityfront Plaza becomes the continuation of the current Saint Clair Street.  So this would be the only building on Old Saint Clair Street.

  • Address:  201 East Illinois Street
  • Developer: CIM Group
  • Developer: Golub
  • Architecture firm: Adrian Smith+Gordon Gill Architecture
  • Height: 1,422 feet
  • Floors: 113
  • Size: 1,369,500 square feet
  • Apartment entrance: Off East Illinois Street and Lower East Illinois Street
  • Condominium entrance: Off North Cityfront Plaza Drive and Lower North Saint Clair Street
  • Hotel entrance: Off both East Illinois Street and North Cityfront Plaza Drive
  • Retail access: Off Pioneer Court
  • Parking access: Off Lower North Old Saint Clair Street
  • Loading docks: Seven, off Lower North Water Street and Lower North Saint Clair Street

Location: 201 East Illinois Street, Streeterville

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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