♫ Lakeshore East / It Has a Plan / I-J-K-L-O ♫

Channel your inner four-year-old, and sing along.

Lakeshore East, it has a plan
I – J – K – L – O
And to this plan, were drawn some NIMBYS
I – J – K – L – O
With a “view” “view” here
And a “school” “school” there
Here a critic, there a critic
Everyone’s a civic cynic
Lakeshore East, it has a plan
I – J – K – L – O

A little over a year ago, Magellan Development and Lendlease revealed their vision for the two remaining empty patches of land at Lakeshore East.  And a little over nine months ago, 42nd Ward Alderman Brendan Reilly told them to go pound sand.

Rendering of Towers J and I (Courtesy of bKL Architecture)

Rendering of the 2017 plan for Towers J and I (Courtesy of bKL Architecture)

Now the development duo is back with a revised plan for the southwest corner of the Chicago River and Lake Michigan.  And once again, it’s going to be three skyscrapers.

You may remember in July of 2017, the idea was to build three very large skyscrapers designed by LSE’s own bKL Architecture on the four plots of land known as “I,” J,” “K,” and “L.”

The biggest of the bunch was Building I.  It was to be a shiny, 80-story modern monument rising 875 feet above the river.  If Related Midwest’s 400 North Lake Shore Drive proposal happens, the two would form an instantly Instagrammable gateway to the city that would appear on postcards for as many years as postcards remain a thing.

That notion may still be alive and well.  In Mr. Reilly’s announcement about the revised plan, he notes that there will once again be three buildings.  He also beans about 1,700 residences and 30,000 square feet of retail space.

With 1,700 residences to pack into three towers, expect this to be another sky-scraping proposal.  But that’s OK.  The main criticisms of the last plan weren’t about building height, or style, or even parking.  Grooves were harshed over public space, and the awkward design of a plaza/stair/concrete path thing connecting the upper levels of Lakeshore East with the Lake Michigan shoreline.

Rendering of Towers I, J, K/L park area (Courtesy of bKL Architecture)

Rendering of the 2017 plan for Towers I, J, K/L park area (Courtesy of bKL Architecture)

The original zoning of this corner of the world called for four skyscrapers averaging 46 stories.  The developers sought to increase openness and reduce shadows by combining that zoning into three, taller buildings.  That looks great on paper, and in computer simulations.  But the general public lives and breathes at ground level.  It doesn’t matter how cool your tower looks in a Keynote slideshow, the neighbors aren’t going to be happy if they have a dissatisfactory experience walking past your building each day.

It’s worth noting that there isn’t a peep about Building O in the alderman’s announcement.  O, at 215 North Columbus Drive, is the space between Aqua and 300 East Randolph Street.  Back when the original I, J, K/L plan was announced, plans were also announced for Building O to be a two-flag hotel sandwich of about 55 stories; again, designed by bKL.  When Reilly went all Gordon Ramsay on the middle of the alphabet buildings, O was not specifically axed.  But at the same time, it’s been crickets for that parcel for over a year.

Rendering of Tower O (Courtesy of bKL Architecture)

Rendering of the 2017 plan for Tower O (Courtesy of bKL Architecture)

At the time we were told that some of O’s height was sacrificed to make the water-adjacent buildings happen.  And now that those taller buildings have been re-done, it would make sense that O might be in for some changes, too.

If you want to get the skinny on the project revisions first hand, show up at the Radisson Blu Aqua Hotel at 221 North Columbus Drive at 6:00pm Wednesday (August 29, 2018).  The event will be held in the Atlantic Ballroom, but get there super early because the last few Lakeshore East events were packed.

Location: 452-500 East Waterside Drive, The Loop

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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