It’s been a very long time since groundbreaking meant breaking ground. Many decades ago the first groundbreaking ceremony I attended was for a television station. A bunch of guys in suits and hardhats lined up with ceremonial brass shovels, stuck them in a trough of finely milled soil, and in a Blitzkrieg of flashbulbs, turned spades to mark the start of construction. At that moment, the backhoes fired up behind them, and started tearing into the ground.
These days, groundbreakings involve tents, and food trucks, and drones, and cakes in the shape of the building-to-come, and even clowns face-painting trust fund grandchildren. But most often, groundbreakings these days are held after ground has been broken. When port-a-potties have been positioned, dirt has been displaced, and construction companies are constructing companies.
What happened at 1000 South Michigan a few days ago was less common.
A groundbreaking ceremony was held for 1000M, the 74-story Helmut Jahn-designed residential skyscraper that could one day offer extravagant, unstoppable views of Grant Park and Lake Michigan. But it’s worth noting that while there was a groundbreaking ceremony, no ground has been broken.
Crain’s Chicago Business has a good article about this that also casts a fair bit of skepticism on this project. It’s a good piece of writing that makes its point in a very just-the-facts-ma’am way.
We’re still optimistic about this building. Just this past July lawyers told the Department of Planning and Development that the developers were ready to begin construction, once some changes to the design were worked out.
Among the changes:
- Move the ground floor facade north a bit in order to accommodate truck traffic and loading through the alley bordering the south of the site.
- Ditch the 12-space surface parking lot along South Wabash Avenue and replace it with a dog run.
- Move the 148-space bicycle parking up to the second floor.
- Reduce the total parking capacity from 498 spaces to 440.
- Move truck access from East 9th Street to Wabash.
- Make the tower skinnier, now 102 feet wide (east to west), down from 111 feet.
- Drop the north- and south-facing balconies except on the upper floors with the largest units. Also, the 70th floor loses its east-facing balcony.
- The horizontal channel which marks the setback from the base to the tower has been narrowed from 41 feet tall to 24 feet tall. This is important because at 215 feet off the street, it creates visual coherence with the neighboring buildings along Michigan Avenue.
To give you a better idea of how all this could flesh out, there’s diagrams below. You can really see how the new skyscraper will hang over the building at 1006 South Michigan.
Changes to 1000M have been requested and granted before. In May of 2017 the developers asked the city for, and were granted, permission to change minor elements of the design. But then nothing happened, and after waiting the customary one year without dirt being turned, the city revoked that permission.
The developers now have until July 24 of 2020 to start construction, or the permission for these more recent changes will also evaporate.
When completed, 1000M is expected bring over 400 new residences to downtown Chicago in an 832-foot-tall tower. But that 832 is a long way from the 1,030 that was announced back in 2015.