With skyscraper nerds across the Midwest still giddy from yesterday’s groundbreaking ceremony for the Cirrus and Cascade towers in Lakeshore East, it’s worth tallying what’s left to build there. The answer is: not much.
There are just two more large buildings left to build at the complex that started its journey from wharf-side rail yard to model urban community over half a century ago.
At 950 feet, Building I is the largest of the two remaining planned towers, represented front and center in the rendering above. The bKL-designed building will sit on the southwest corner of Chicago’s two waterfronts, Lake Michigan and the Chicago River. The only other Lakeshore East building with views that can rival it is the Vista Tower a block away, which clocks in at 1,191 feet. But once Building I goes up, you might have to be above the 85th floor to get the full-on primo lake views in Vista.
Building I is better than Vista because it will give even people whose ears won’t pop in the elevator on the way home a chance to have unobstructed views of the lake, the river, and Streeterville. And anyone who’s taken a nighttime airplane tour of Chicago can tell you that looking out at the Navy Pier fireworks is a much better experience than looking down at the Navy Pier fireworks.
That’s because while living on an ultra-high floor gives you bragging rights, it doesn’t always give you the best view. For example, people who live above the 70th floor at 875 North Michigan sometimes moan about how the view is mostly of featureless blue sky and featureless blue water and not much else. They have to actually stand by the window to see anything interesting, and looking down, often the view is of the gravel-topped roofs of other buildings like so many random surface parking lots. Meanwhile, people who live in the 50-something range of the same building are right in the middle of the city’s vertical spectacular. The upper tier is sometimes privately jealous of the lower tier, even though living below the 65th floor is considered kinda ghetto in some 875 circles.
The other big Lakeshore East building coming down the pike is the long-awaited 193 North Columbus.
193 is the 600-foot-tall hotel and apartment tower that’s going to slot into the gap between Aqua and 300 East Randolph Street. Its 53 floors are expected to contain 33 stories of apartments on top, and a pair of 20-story hotels below, snuggled side-by-side like a frozen dairy treat from Steak ‘n Shake.
This tower is less than it might have been. Back in 1978, the Illinois Central Railroad specced it out to rise 900 feet tall, complimenting what is now the Aon Center across the street. But some of that height was sacrificed so that other buildings lining Lake Shore Park could be taller. As Mr. Spock said, “The needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few.”