Onni Adjusts Its Plan For 353 West Grand, But Is It Enough?

Some skyscrapers go from announcement to completion in a couple of years.  Others take longer.  353 West Grand, a proposal from Vancouver’s Onni, is one of the ones taking the more ponderous route.

Rendering of 353 West Grand (via Office of Alderman Brendan Reilly)

We’ve known since 2013 that something big was coming to the southwest corner of Grand and Orleans, the former location of the Clark and Barlow hardware store.  In 2015, Onni put forward a plan from River North’s Pappageorge Haymes for a 32-story residential tower with a podium that slruped up all the remaining available space.

That didn’t sit well with the neighbors.  Especially those at the Sexton Lofts who thought the project was encroaching not only on their views and their light, but on them, personally.

Diagram of 353 West Grand (via Office of Alderman Brendan Reilly)

Diagram of 353 West Grand (via Office of Alderman Brendan Reilly)

The two properties are separated by an alley.  But the property lines aren’t at the alley edges.  The division runs down the length of the alley.  So while the balconies that the Sexton Lofts dwellers love so much hang over the alley, they are still within that building’s property boundary.  What Onni wanted to do last time around was build pretty much right up to those balconies.

Nobody likes to look out their window into a brick wall.  This isn’t New York.  So the new proposal is a little easier on the eyes.

The current plan from West Town’s Brininstool and Lynch for 353 has the two buildings separated by 28 feet — a significant improvement.  People with balconies on the first four floors of Sexton will still lose their views of the Ohio Street offramp, but at least they won’t be able to play handball from their balconies to the neighboring podium.

Those with a fifth or sixth-floor balcony will look into a line of trees that Onni plans to plant on top of 353’s podium.  It’s a good compromise because Onni gets to leaf out its pool deck with something more meaningful than the scrub grass commonly used by developers trying to landscape on a budget (short plants = shallow roots = money saved).  And it’s a win for two floors of Sexton residents who get to look out of their windows at the beauty of nature instead of an office supply store.

Previously, there would have been as little as eight feet, 10 inches between the brick wall of Sexton and 353.  That span was further reduced to about four feet by the Sexton balconies.  Now there’s about 28 feet between the two.

It’s not just people in the Sexton getting a little more space.  The eastern edge of the building has been pulled back to make room for a public pocket park.

The park will be about 26 feet wide, and run the length of the half-block site.  It’s not much, but every little bit helps in this area.  (Note to urban planners: A patch of grass surrounded by highway ramps is not a park.)

There will also be a “landscape buffer” in the western divide between the two buildings, past the Sexton’s loading dock.  Because of building shadows and other factors, we’re going to call this an “ecological challenge.”  Good luck with that, Onni.

  • Address: 353 West Grand Avenue
  • Developer: Onni Group
  • Architecture firm: Brininstool and Lynch
  • Site area: 37,260 square feet
  • Floor are ratio: 11.5 (7.0 base + 4.5 bonus)
  • Bonus payment: Neighborhood Opportunity Fund – $4,614,278.40
  • Bonus payment: Adopt-a-Landmark Fund – $576,784.80
  • Bonus payment: Local Impact Fund: $576,784.80
  • Maximum floors: 38
  • Maximum height: 452 feet
  • Podium height: 70 feet
  • Residences: 354
  • Affordable housing: TBD
  • Automobile parking: 284 spaces
  • Retail space: 11,000 square feet
  • Outdoor dog run on the west side of the 7th floor
  • Loading docks: 2 (off interior courtyard accessed from Grand Avenue)

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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