If you’ve ever spent a rainy winter’s eve listening to gospel music on a distant AM radio station, drinking Mr. Pibb out of a Mason jar while putting together a Nancy Drew jigsaw puzzle from Goodwill because your girlfriend left you and took both the dog and the TV remote, then you know the satisfaction that can be found in finally fitting that last cardboard squiggle in place, sealing the edges with your index finger, and giving it a polite thump with a balled-up fist.
That must be how the boffins at Magellan Development feel today. Minus the sob story.
42nd Ward Alderman Brendan Reilly has confirmed that the final piece of the Lakeshore East puzzle will, indeed, be a 53-story bKL-designed skyscraper to be slotted in between Aqua and 300 East Randolph. Polite thumps optional.
This space has long been known as “Parcel O,” and the building that will eventually go here has been known as Building O. Back in 1978 when the Illinois Central Railroad decided which buildings would go where, Building O was designated to be a 900-foot-tall tower. It would have been an impressive companion to the Aon Center, across the street.
But Chicago has changed a lot since 1978. Waterfront life is the new hotness, and Building O donated some of its height to the Vista Tower to help forge its commanding vistas of the Chicago River and Lake Michigan.
O (now using the address 193 North Columbus Drive) has smelled like a lot of things since we first got wind of this project in 2011. First it was going to be a snack pack hotel stack. Then apartments over offices. Then just offices, neat. Now it’s doing 33 stories of apartments over a pair of 20-story hotels, arranged side-by-each, as they say in Wisconsin.
In an e-mail, Mr. Reilly told his constituents that Magellan is ready to set sail on its expedition to bring Lakeshore East full circle. (Unlike its namesake, Magellan Development will not have a penguin named after it.)
Because the current plan for Building O fits within the zoning approved for Lakeshore East as a whole, Magellan can move forward with this project without having to bow and curtsey before city council. But that doesn’t mean that Reilly didn’t get a few spiffs from the developer.
Most of the changes are minor things, like moving the food truck zone, and re-doing that Columbus Drive crosswalk in front of the Fairmont Hotel that no cab driver has ever yielded to, no matter how completely it was decorated with flashing lights or pedestrians.
The big deal, though, is a long-overdue extension of Chicago’s pedway system.
The weather-resistant maze of downtown passages will extend from Aqua, through Building O, to both 300 East Randolph, and to the retail and restaurant building that sports the flagship Mariano’s supermarket. It’s like a Habitrail for people, instead of gerbils. Smells the same, too.
The pedway connection has been a long time coming, and will help soothe the butt chafe of people living on the ass end of the pedway system, who have been promised repeatedly for half a century that they would be invited to the party. No, it’s not ideal. No, it’s not what was promised. But yes, it is progress. Or at least a concession.
(To read more on the history of the pedway shafting, visit this page at NewEastSide.org, one of Chicago’s most thorough hyper-local news sources).