For as long as anyone can remember, it’s been lots of discussion but no digging in the West Loop where Amtrak has wanted to add a skyscraper to the Union Station complex since before Amtrak was a thing. In the last 15 years, we’ve seen at least three different plans for Amtrak skyscrapers that simply never got off the ground. But that has finally changed.
The tower has been refined since we last saw it. The neutering of its ground floor podium has reduced the number of setbacks from four to three, and opened up possibilities on the ground floor. That’s where recessed lobbies facing east and west are framed by diagonal support structures, encouraging pedestrian traffic to engage with the building and not just hoof on past.
This is hardly the first time Riverside and Goettish have pulled on their blue striped circus tights and performed a balancing act. They are currently walking this same tightrope a few blocks away at 110 North Wacker where a 1.5 million square foot office building cantilevers over a new extension of the Chicago Riverwalk. And a few blocks further, 150 North Riverside continues to amaze as it extrudes itself from a narrow space between below-grade train tracks and then squirts upward into the Chicago skyline like an architectural version of a Pillsbury can of exploding biscuit dough.
The hallmark at the top of this 700 foot skyscraper will be BMO, better known globally as Bank of Montreal, and better known locally as the Canadians who ate Harris Bank.
At the base of the tower will be a 1 ½ acre park, something that this area could really use; but it will be interesting to see how it holds up against the constant assault of fumes from idling taxis and buses, circling ride share vehicles, and the trains which sit across the street belching diesel nonsense into all of the biological air filters walking by.