Alderman Spikes 1,100-Foot-Tall Chicago Spire Replacement

In a blocking move that would make Hakeem Olajuwon say, “Oh, snap!” 42nd Ward Alderman Brendan Reilly pulled on his Bulls jersey, reached up with political hand spread wide, and blocked a planned supertower in Streeterville.

This ain't gonna happen.

This ain’t gonna happen.

The project in question was 400 North Lake Shore Drive, a pair of skyscrapers at the site of the long-dead Chicago Spire, and the even longer-dead Fordham Spire.  If you don’t know what either of those are, allow us to be the first to say, “Welcome to Chicago.  Try the pizza.”

The two-tower plan from Related Midwest would have put a pair of SOM-designed skyscrapers where Lake Michigan empties into the Chicago River.  The smaller tower was going to be 850 feet, and the taller one 1,100 feet.  Between the two, there would have been 1,025 residential and hotel units.

In a message to his constituents, Mr. Reilly laid it out, complete with bold, underlined text:

I have informed Related Midwest that the 400 North Lake Shore Drive Proposal will not be moving forward in its current form and is therefore rejected.

The hotel was one of the main reasons that Mr. Reilly nixed the plan, along with traffic issues, pedestrian congestion, and security at both the riverwalk component and at the future DuSable Park, which Related was going to build out.

Reilly wrote, “After sorting through community feedback, I sent a detailed memo to the Development Team on August 13th – detailing the priority issues that the Developer must address before their project could receive additional consideration for approval. Unfortunately, several weeks later, Related Midwest provided me with a response that did not adequately address any of the major concerns about their proposal.”

Another sticking point was the podium.  For the first time in a very very long time, someone in a position of power actually objects to turning Chicago’s streetscape into a warren of walls.  Perhaps Mr. Reilly thought that since this trophy tower was destined for one of the most visible plots in Chicago, and next to the most visited tourist attraction in the Midwest, the architects and developers might try a little harder and stop playing the “We need a podium to cut costs” card.

The move comes less than a week after Mr. Reilly and the Chicago Plan Commission approved a slew of other skyscrapers for downtown Chicago, including a 950-foot tall residential tower just across the river.

You can read Alderman Reilly’s full statement below, after the rendering of what might have been.  So far, nothing out of Related Midwest.  If they issue a press release, we’ll let you know.

400 Lake Shore Drive (Courtesy of Related Midwest)

400 Lake Shore Drive (Courtesy of Related Midwest)

Statement from 42nd Ward Alderman Brendan Reilly:

 

I am writing to update you on the status of Related Midwest’s proposed development at 400 North Lake Shore Drive, commonly known as the “Spire Site.”

As you know, I joined with SOAR to host a community meeting on May 15th to review the Developer’s proposal. The meeting was very well attended and we received a tremendous amount of community feedback. My staff catalogued all of the community input from that meeting and we created a list of priority issues that needed to be addressed during my negotiation process with the Developer.

Over the summer, I convened numerous meetings between the Developer and nearby condominium associations to discuss their concerns with the proposal and to identify potential solutions. During that process, neighbors shared legitimate concerns regarding the hotel use; the tall podium base of the buildings; traffic concerns for East North Water Street; and security issues on the Riverwalk and at DuSable Park.

After sorting through community feedback, I sent a detailed memo to the Development Team on August 13th – detailing the priority issues that the Developer must address before their project could receive additional consideration for approval. Unfortunately, several weeks later, Related Midwest provided me with a response that did not adequately address any of the major concerns about their proposal.

I have informed Related Midwest that the 400 North Lake Shore Drive Proposal will not be moving forward in its current form and is therefore rejected.

I always strive to negotiate positive outcomes when considering development proposals. As with any project, my ultimate goal is to strike a fair balance and approve responsible projects that will be successful for the owners, while enhancing the character and vitality of the surrounding neighborhood.

That said, the Developer must address many issues related to this proposal before it may be further considered. Some (not all) of the outstanding neighborhood concerns include the following:

  • Access to the site via East North Water Street must be significantly restricted
  • Proposed hotel use should be eliminated
  • Podium height and bulk must be reduced
  • Make greater use of the Lake Shore Drive access ramp system and below grade parking system to manage deliveries, services vehicles and pick-up / drop-offs.
  • Developer must assemble a security plan for the Riverwalk and DuSable Park
  • Elimination of the proposed Ogden Slip Public Esplanade

As it stands, this project remains stalled and will not move forward. In the event the Developer chooses to address the legitimate concerns regarding their proposal, my office will be sure to provide all impacted neighbors with an update.

Location: 400 North Lake Shore Drive, Streeterville

Editor

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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2 Comments

  1. Related Midwest should just give calatrava the 10 million dollars he’s owed for the design of the spire. They already have 55 million dollars worth of completed foundation work sitting there. What is so difficult about that picture?

    Post a Reply
    • Agreed, and I would love to see the spire built. But if they were to do that, they should’ve done it when they bought the site and A. not pain another architect for designs, and B. could’ve started construction a year or more ago.

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