Near North Firehouse Plan Returns as a 29-Story Office Tower

The 2017 plan to replace the Chicago Engine Company 42 fire station with a skyscraper is back in play.  At a public meeting last week, Friedman Properties unveiled its more fully-realized notion for the space — a 29-story office tower designed by Goettsch Partners.

Rendering of 444 North Dearborn (via the Office of Alderman Brendan Reilly)

Rendering of 444 North Dearborn (via the Office of Alderman Brendan Reilly)

The fire station won’t go away.  Instead, a new 29,000 square-foot fire station will be incorporated into the new skyscraper, making the firefighters of 42 house proud, should Randolph Mantooth ever decide to visit.

Chicago Engine Company 42

The 1968 Chicago Engine Company 42 building

The proposed new building would rise 455 feet into the Near North skyline.  It’s bigger than its immediate neighbors, but not so massive as to be obnoxious.  You might call it a “respectable” height that makes better use of the southwest corner of Dearborn and Illinois Streets.  The views impacted are mostly hotels and office buildings, with the exception of the ALMI River North Apartments at 71 West Hubbard Street.

The neighborhood won’t be left unprotected during construction.  The plan is to build the new fire station first, then move the smoke-eaters out of the 1968 building into the new building, then tear down the old building and up goes the tower.

...and nothing of value was lost.

…and nothing of value was lost.

In the process, a handball court will have to be demolished.  But that’s OK.  It’s not 1976 anymore.

Behold parking space #49, which is either the best space in Chicago (immediate elevator access) or the worse space in Chicago (tandem parking plus claustrophobia).

Behold parking space #49, quite possibly the worst parking space in Chicago: Tandem parking plus claustrophobia.  Better hope #48 doesn’t work late.

The parking situation here gives us “the feels,” as the kids say.  Just 50 spaces, and a matching minimum of bicycle parking.  Plus, it’s all stuffed underground where it belongs, not in a soul-devouring value-engineered podium.  Developers hate podiums.  Architects hate podiums.  The public hates podiums.  You know who loves podiums?  Bankers.

We searched the plans, and don’t see a brass pole for the firepersons to slide down.  Just boring old stairs.  Zero points from both Batman and Robin.

Sadly, the red accents from last year’s preliminary rendering are gone.  People searching for a Dalmatian to pet may not know where to go instinctively, as the firehouse blandly blends into the blandness of the bland building’s bland facade.

In spite of its appearance, this building looks like it’s going to move forward.  In his weekly e-mail to constituents, 42nd Ward Alderman Brendan Reilly moaned about how few people attended the presentation on the 16th.  So, he’s going to hold another one next Tuesday (July 30, 2018) at 6pm at the Springhill Suites, which is probably a good idea so that the naysayers can’t say they didn’t get a chance to say nay.

Right now the building bears the disappointing name 444 North Dearborn.  Hopefully some big local firm will splash out on naming rights.  Walgreens Tower has a nice ring to it.  ADM Center works, too.  Please, nobody tell Guaranteed Rate about this opportunity.

Naturally, here’s a fire station firehose:

  • Address: 444 North Dearborn Street
  • Site area: 28,323 square feet
  • Maximum height:
  • Maximum length: 221 feet, 8½ inches
  • Maximum width: 119 feet, 9¼ inches
  • Office space: 550,000 square feet
  • Retail space: 10,100 square feet
  • Floor Area Ratio: 11.5 (7.0 base + 4.5 bonus)
  • Automobile parking: 50 spaces (28 tandem)
  • Bicycle parking:  50 spaces
  • Parking garage access: via North Dearborn Street
  • Loading docks: 2, on the east-west alley leading to North Dearborn Street
  • Elevators: 15
  • Beds: 24
  • Fire apparatus parking availability:
    • 1 Battalion chief SUV
    • 1 Fire truck
    • 1 Squad
    • 1 Snorkle
    • 2 Fire engines
    • 1 Hazmat truck
    • 1 Command van
    • 2 Ambulances

Enjoy the renderings below, parts of which are from a Polish company called Evermotion.  How do we know? It put its name on the car’s license plate.

† “Smoke-eaters” is apparently a term used for fire fighters.  At least on CKLW news. In the 1960’s.

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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