Overshadowed, but Undeterred, Small Chicago Buildings Defy Enormous Neighbors

Every once in a while you’ll see in a magazine, or on the intarwebs, some small house or building that is being loomed over by an enormous neighbor. The stereotype is that this sort of thing happens when a little old lady refuses to sell her lifelong home to some big, evil skyscraper company, so the billionaire owner builds around her, blocking out all of her light and air, while twirling a pencil-thin mustache and kicking puppies into a wood chipper.

The reality is usually more complicated than that, but it’s a nice wad of mental chewing gum.

There are two such visual contrasts setting up in Chicago right now.

448 North LaSalle under construction (Courtesy of River North Spy Joel)
448 North LaSalle under construction (Courtesy of River North Spy Joel)

The first is on LaSalle and Illinois, where a 12-story office building is going up hard against a three-story building. In this photograph from River North Spy Joel, you can see how the two are not maintaining their social distance.

The new building is 448 North LaSalle, formerly known as 450 North LaSalle, a 174,599-square-foot project designed by The Lamar Johnson Collaborative. The 174-foot-tall office building boasts a gym, a tenant lounge, and a rooftop deck. It is expected to be completed by the end of the year, when hopefully those features will be an asset once again.

Rendering of 450 North LaSalle
Rendering of 448 North LaSalle

The peewee next door is the Veseman Building. Although George F. Lovdall designed this building with two stories in the 1880’s, it was extensively altered in the 1930’s, when a third floor and a new terra cotta facade were added. It’s that multi-colored terra cotta that got this building added to the list of Chicago landmarks in 2007.

1 Chicago under construction, with Bella Luna Cafe in the foreground. (Courtesy of Gold Coast Spy Joel)
1 Chicago under construction, with Bella Luna Cafe beneath. (Courtesy of Gold Coast Spy Joel)

An even more dramatic big-and-little situation is shaping up at Superior and Dearborn. That’s where the parking lot-eating One Chicago is in the middle of rising almost a thousand feet into the city’s Gold Coast skyline. At first glance, this appears to be a full-block project. But if you look closely in this photo from Gold Coast Spy Joel, the single-story 731 North Dearborn Street is still there, a toadstool in the shadow of a mighty oak.

Last we heard, both the pizza joint and the dry cleaning shop in this mobile home-sized building were still open for business, in spite of the cacophony happening all around them.

You may know the pizza joint in question as Bella Luna Cafe. It became the go-to spot for pizza lovers when Papa Milano’s was bulldozed to make way for the now-shuttered Barneys New York store. Bella Luna Cafe was also briefly “internet famous” when Second Ward Alderman Brian Hopkins was shown on the Food Network scowling over the shoulder of culinary muppet Guy Ferry.

If you’re looking for an historic example of this kind of thing, check out the Pickwick Stable at 22 East Jackson Boulevard.

The Pickwick Stable at 22 East Jackson Boulevard (File)
The Pickwick Stable at 22 East Jackson Boulevard (File)

Author: Editor

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

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