The 35-year saga of 400 North Lake Shore Drive may finally come to a conclusion soon, as this week the Chicago Plan Commission is scheduled to consider the latest proposal for the property on the northwest corner of the Chicago River and Lake Michigan.
The location is perfect for a prominent, eye-catching trophy tower, and even in the mid-1980’s drew proposals for buildings as tall as 78 stories. But it was 2006 which saw the race to the sky shift into overdrive with a 1,500-foot-tall proposal, that was followed by a 2,000-foot-tall proposal, that was followed by… the big hole in the ground half-full of water that we have today.
The site is now owned by Related Midwest, which wants this dog to get a wiggle on and put up a two-tower proposal that is modest compared to almost every single previous notion for this space. But it’s still a bold enough plan to leave some Streeterville NIMBYs in a shivering, pearl-clutching panic. Because of that, it’s been revised several times, always downward, to what will be presented at the Commission meeting on Thursday: A pair of residential towers 875 and 765 feet tall.
Opponents of this project can’t complain about the height or its potential for blocking views because it would be all pots and kettles pointing fingers at one another. Instead, they mostly complain about the traffic problems they believe the project will cause. Remarkably, there are people living in Streeterville who don’t realize this isn’t Lisle, and think it’s perfectly reasonable to have two (or more!) cars in the most densely populated neighborhood in the Midwest. It’s the same sort of mental disconnect that allows your neighbor to rationalize keeping a 150-pound Alaskan Malamute in his studio apartment.
Because of this, 42nd Ward Alderman Brendan Reilly has put an interesting safety valve in the zoning for this property. He not only wants one tower to be built at a time, he wants there to be a pause between the construction of the two so that a study can be done to determine the impact the first one had on traffic before putting up the second building. If things don’t work out well, that could mean changes to the second half of the project.