Related Midwest Drives an 1,100-Foot-Tall Nail Into The Chicago Spire’s Coffin

If you’ve spent the last eight years waiting for someone to drive the final nail into The Chicago Spire’s coffin, Related Midwest is your carpenter.

Tonight the River North real estate developer pulled the cloak off of a duo of towers it plans to erect at the site of Chicago’s most magnificent hole — 400 Lake Shore Drive.

400 Lake Shore Drive (Courtesy of Related Midwest)

400 Lake Shore Drive (Courtesy of Related Midwest)

400 is an SOM design crafted by David Childs, known mostly for his work on such New York landmarks as One World Trade Center and the Time Warner Center.  The 1,100-foot-tall lead tower faces southeast to northwest, with an array of setbacks giving a chamfered effect that Related describes as a “waterfall.”  The smaller tower performs the same trick across its 850 feet, but with a northeast-southwest orientation.

While the Chicago (née Fordham) Spire that this replaces was intended to be the tallest building in the hemisphere, this one has somewhat less lofty ambitions.  If built as planned, and assuming the Vista Tower is finished, 400 Lake Shore Drive would be the fifth-tallest skyscraper in Chicago.  Sixth if the proposed Tribune Tower East goes up.

Inside, the taller 400 building will have a 175 room hotel on the bottom, and 300 condominiums on top.  The smaller tower is all residential, with 550 apartments.

This is the second time that Related Midwest has brought a New York architect in to build a huge residential project on the lakefront.  Its One Bennett Park recently topped out one block to the north.  That tower was designed by Robert A.M. Stern, and at 836 feet will be just shorter than the smaller of the two 400 LSD towers.  Both towers use setbacks in a very New York way that is unusual in the Windy City.  The result is forced perspective that increases the apparent height and drama, while simultaneously pumping up rents. A full 20% of the homes at 400 LSD will have great big cha-ching terraces.

400 Lake Shore Drive (Courtesy of Related Midwest)

400 Lake Shore Drive (Courtesy of Related Midwest)

Fortunately, the New York vibe is tempered through the use of terra cotta and bay windows that pay homage to the Chicago window. The porte cochère, though?  Straight outta Logan’s Run.

This is also the second time that Related Midwest has finished someone else’s lunch in Chicago.  Its first big splash in local building circles was resurrecting the quarter-built 92-story Waterview Tower project at 111 East Wacker Drive and turning it into OneEleven, a 54-story luxury residential building.

The renderings released by Related don’t show it, but it’s important to remember that just a few hundred feet away, Magellan Development is planning to build a massive tower at the northeast corner of Laskeshore East.  Though its original 875-foot-tall plan was bounced by 42nd Ward Alderman Brendan Reilly, Magellan and its partner, Lendlease, will be back.  The potential is for Lakeshore East and 400 LSD to form a modern day Pillars of Hercules for the Chicago River.

400 Lake Shore Drive (Courtesy of Related Midwest)

400 Lake Shore Drive (Courtesy of Related Midwest)

Naturally, 400 Lake Shore Drive still has to navigate the City Hall and neighborhood group minefield before it can be built.  But considering that everyone signed off on a 2,000-foot-tall tower for this very spot not that long ago, there’s really no reason to complain about its height.  And Related is committed to adhering to a city ordinance that requires whatever company finally builds at 400 to also build the long-awaited DuSable Park on the other side of the Drive.  The price tag for that is estimated at $10 million.

400 LSD is not only half as tall as the previously approved project for this space, it’s also half the bulk.  An F.A.R. of 14.1, compared with 25 for the Chicago Spire.  Forty-four percent less floor space.  And 1,025 residential and hotel units compared with 1,200 for the Spire.

Now that we know the project’s height, what about its depths?  What will become of the 76-foot-deep light socket on the lakefront?  Word from the Chicago Tribune is that some of it will be incorporated into this project, and some of it will also be at least partly filled in.  So you bought that urban scuba diving franchise for nothing.

400 Lake Shore Drive (Courtesy of Related Midwest)

400 Lake Shore Drive (Courtesy of Related Midwest)

Editor’s note: Related Midwest is an advertiser.  No money changed hands for this article.  They pay for ads, just like everyone else. Why don’t you?

Location: 400 North Lake Shore Drive, 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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  1. Thank you for being the first to publish the renderings and actual info.

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  2. “Both towers use setbacks in a very New York way that is unusual in the Windy City.”

    You have to be kidding, right? Setbacks in skyscrapers were started in Chicago. You can start with Louis Sullivan’s treatise on skyscraper construction.

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    • Editor

      The article doesn’t state that setbacks wren’t invented in Chicago. It states that they are not usual in Chicago. With the exception of 135 South LaSalle, The Clark and Adams Building, and a dozen of their pre-1960’s neighbors, developers in Chicago have largely chosen to fully maximize the building envelope whenever possible, leading to the sea of blocky figures that mostly populate the downtown area today.

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      • Sure, Holabird and Root buildings are good examples of early setbacks. The Sears Tower, or whatever we are calling it, has setbacks. Several new buildings going up by Vinoly and Gang have setbacks. True, after the 60s the setbacks, via Mies, shifted to the ground level and not the upper stories. Buildings were then setback from the lot to allow more light to the street.

        Frankly, the comment about setbacks really isn’t a big deal. The inaccuracy of it, however, makes me wonder if the Editor knows his Chicago architecture well enough.

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  3. I can barely wait for this design to get built. Its needed-

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