Construction Update
Banking on a Lake View in Chicago’s Gold Coast

If you’ve been using your Independence Day week off to get in a bit of cycling along Chicago’s lakefront path, you might have wondered about the low-rise building going up on the corner of Lake Shore Drive and Banks Street.  What you saw is 61 Banks Street (61 East Bank Street), a hyperluxe apartment building designed by the West Loop’s Booth Hansen for Draper and Kramer.

61 Banks Street under construction (Courtesy of Joe Zekas/YoChicago!)

61 Banks Street under construction (Courtesy of Joe Zekas/YoChicago!)

Joe Zekas over at YoChicago! flew by in Air Joe One recently and sent in the photograph above, showing the building almost, but not quite topped out.  There’s still structural steel work being done on the penthouse level.  It’s hoped that exterior work will be done by the end of the year, and the whole project will be wrapped up by April 2019.

Nathaniel Prentice Banks

Nathaniel Prentice Banks

61 Banks is being built on what was — until recently — the next-to-last morsel of undeveloped land along the lakefront between the Chicago River and Diversey Harbor.  But don’t get used to that bright yellow crane.  It’s scheduled to be disassembled next week.

Clocking in at just eight stories tall (plus basement garage), 61 Banks sports a mere 58 residences.  Seven of them are townhomes.  More importantly, it has uninterrupted, and uninterruptible, views of Lake Michigan.  Unless Rahm wants the city to go all Hong Kong and start building skyscrapers on reclaimed waterfront, these views will be forever open, clear, and free.

Speaking of exclusivity, a Banks Street address is pretty rare in Chicago.  The street is only two blocks long.  So Peapod shouldn’t have a problem finding you.

Banks Street was named after Union Civil War General Nathaniel P. Banks, a Massachusetts factory worker who became a not-so-great politician, a less-than-celebrated military leader, and a failed railroad baron.  He also tried to get the United States to invade what is now Canada, as well as a couple of Caribbean nations.  He was also accused and cleared of taking money from Russia to influence American policy, because some things never change.

On the domestic front, Banks is credited with creating laws that cut child labor in the U.S. back to just ten hours a day.  In spite of his mediocrity, he still did more with his life than most people today will ever even try.

Back on topic: Before you bemoan the loss of an open space along the lake, remember that this used to be a surface parking lot that marred the Lake Shore Drive skyline like a nicotine-stained snaggletooth in a beauty queen’s smile.

Interestingly, this is the first new development in Chicago we’ve seen that specifically advertises that the building prohibits short-term (Airbnb-style) rentals.  Whether you see that as a good thing or a bad thing depends on you, but at least it’s being put out there at the outset so no one is surprised.

61 Banks Street under construction (Courtesy of Joe Zekas/YoChicago!)

61 Banks Street under construction (Courtesy of Joe Zekas/YoChicago!)

Location: 61 Banks Street, Gold Coast

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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