Gensler-Designed Plan for 1200 West Carroll Hits City Hall

San Francisco architecture firm Gensler doesn’t do a lot of work in Chicago, but we’ve been a fan of the blueprint boffins ever since we launched our first architecture web site way back in 1997.  Back then, Google hadn’t been invented yet, and we were in a city littered with Gensler designs; so we learned to appreciate its affinity for easily-relatable facades and its apparent distaste for parking podia.  

December 2019 diagram of 1200 West Carroll
December 2019 diagram of 1200 West Carroll

Gensler’s newest project for Chicago continues in that milieu, landing a 14-story office building a block north of Fulton Market for electric neighborhood transformer Sterling Bay.   

That Sterling Bay developments have sprinkled themselves across Chicago like glitter at a brony birthday party is no secret.  To us that’s neither good nor bad.  But we are thankful that the West Town mass gentrifier is at least spreading the architectural love among several firms, saving us from seeing the same building over and over wherever it chooses to plant its flag.

1200 West Carroll tries to reduce its visual impact on the neighborhood by emphasizing its horizontal elements. Instead of cheaping out and doing this with different colored bands of glass, the building is divided into alternating belts of building that are either inset or cantilevered, depending on whether you’re on optimist or a pessimist. 

Merely going with glass would only be effective in perfect weather, or that special fantasy land that architectural renderings come out of where buildings are never in shadow and steel, spandrels, and brick somehow magically glow from within.  By actually expressing the bands as physical elements, even during the considerable number of gray days in Chicago winters, this building will continue to look shorter than it actually is, and not a 14-story behemoth crouching in Fulton Market’s backyard waiting to devour its neighbors.

The location of 1200 West Carroll Avenue (via Apple Maps)
The location of 1200 West Carroll Avenue (via Apple Maps)

While there are complaints about 1200 being outsized for its location, it will at least contribute to the area by baffling some of the noise from the pentaplex of railroad tracks immediately to its north.  Further, developer Sterling Bay is required to write a check to CDOT for ¾ of a million dollars to overhaul the Metra grade crossing at North Racine Street.  It won’t be something fully awesome like a bridge or underpass to separate the modes of traffic, but for the price the result should at least be some kind of an improvement.  That crossing scares us.

  • Address: 1200 West Carroll Avenue
  • Developer: South Carroll, LLC
  • For realseis: Sterling Bay
  • Architecture firm: Gensler
  • Zoning: M2-3 → DX-5 → Business Planned Development 
  • Net site area: 59,952 square feet
  • Floors: 14
  • Maximum height: 227 feet
  • Roof height: 198 feet
  • Length: 360 feet, four inches
  • Width: 167 feet, seven inches
  • Automobile parking: 90 spaces
  • Loading docks: two
  • Green roof: 18,560 square feet

Location: 1200 West Carroll Avenue, West Town

Author: Editor

Editor founded the Chicago Architecture Blog in 2003, after a long career in journalism. He can be reached at

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