The proposal to erect three new skyscrapers in the northeast corner of Lakeshore East took another step forward tonight.
When the first iteration was voilàed last July, few credible people had anything bad to say about bKL Architecture’s design for the original plan, which included 80-, 50-, and 40-story towers.
The revision tonight is much of the same thing, with just a few changes; but perhaps enough to earn the endorsement of 42nd Ward Alderman Brendan Reilly. Also important is that we finally get to see a vision of the completed Lakeshore East.
He bounced the previous plan back to the developers in December of 2017 because of a short list of neighborhood concerns, such has a lack of contiguous green space and security.
That green space concern is addressed with an interesting tiered park that runs from North Harbor Drive to North Lake Shore Drive. From the top, it looks like a grassy slope with stairs and ramps. From the bottom, it provides access to the lower levels of Building I, where retail and restaurants are envisioned. A further staircase leads to ground level, and the possibility of more retail amenities for people utilizing the lakefront path.
The new plan also moves tower J slightly to improve the whole light/shadows/views/claustrophobia Rubik’s Cube that architects have to deal with when designing taller than a Walgreen’s downtown. The link between the upper level street grid and Lake Michigan has also been improved with a larger, more park-like space.
The biggest change comes in the biggest tower. The plan for 300 hotel rooms has been jettisoned, and the building will be a flat 600 residences. But before you rush off to call U-Haul, the Hawaiian goddess of cardboard boxes, know that this tallest of the three towers isn’t going to be built until last. The two Shoreham-statured buildings will go up first.
Like most of the other buildings at Lakeshore East, these three will share a five-story podium that fills the gap between ground level and the elevated street level. That area is expected to have 1,250 parking spaces and 30,000 square feet of retail space.
If 30,000 seems like a lot of retail space, remember that this project is going to bring in 1,700 new homes. Think of that as around 4,000 people. Plus, there’s also the thousands of other people already living in Lakeshore East and adjacent buildings, in addition to all of the workers at Illinois Center, and passing tourists trying to get from Millennium Park to the lakefront.
In all, it’s a minor change to a major plan that didn’t need all that much work. As someone who suffered through the caisson drilling of too many Lakeshore East buildings, it’ll be nice to have this patch of downtown completed so the community can finally live up to its full potential.