Construction Update
Where Wacker Meets Field, Vista Tower Gets Complicated

The construction of the Vista Tower at Lakeshore East fulfills a dream long-held by locals: A sane ending to Upper East Wacker Drive. For decades, this was a dead end, right in the heart of the city. It was only useful as a staging area for limousines, a viewing post for Navy Pier fireworks, and a trap for tourists who follow their nose instead of a map.

Vista Tower under construction in September 2020 (Courtesy of YoChicago!)
]Vista Tower under construction in September 2020 (Courtesy of YoChicago!)

In this photograph of the base of Vista, sent in by YoChicago!, you can see how construction workers are trying to build a new segment of Upper North Field Boulevard that will link Upper East Wacker Drive with Upper East Waterside Drive, and at the same time serve the Vista Tower’s parking garage, valet, and cab stand.

Maybe AAA will publish a TripTik just for navigating Lakeshore East.
Maybe AAA will publish a TripTik just for navigating Lakeshore East.

It looks a little chaotic in the photograph. And even on paper, it’s more complicated than Jennifer Anniston’s Facebook relationship status. That’s because it has to handle commuter traffic, delivery traffic, livery traffic, and lost tourists, while also existing underneath a 101-story building. Not to mention that there are two more levels of street directly below it.

Diagram of Upper North Field Boulevard underneath the Vista Tower
Diagram of Upper North Field Boulevard underneath the Vista Tower

“But wait,” you say, “That looks far too narrow to handle a morning rush hour.” Very good, my dear Watson. That’s on purpose.

Vista Tower under construction in September 2020 (Courtesy of YoChicago!)
Vista Tower under construction in September 2020 (Courtesy of YoChicago!)

The street from Wacker to Waterside is deliberately narrow because it is only intended for use by people who live in, or have business in, Lakeshore East. Making this look like the end of the road will help keep Rando McDownstate from trundling through in the Family Truckster. Tourists already have a bad habit of ignoring the New Eastside’s “No access to Navy Pier” signs and getting lost in Lakeshore East. Heck, we once saw a wayward articulated CTA bus jackknife itself at the end of North Harbor Drive.

The Lakeshore East master plan shows the upper level connection between Wacker and the rest of Lakeshore East.  A caption reads, "The upper level is intended to serve local neighborhood traffic only."
The Lakeshore East master plan shows the upper level connection between Wacker and the rest of Lakeshore East. A caption reads, “The upper level is intended to serve local neighborhood traffic only.”

In spite of this effort, our prediction is that things are only going to get worse. As soon as East Waterside Drive gets connected to East Wacker Drive, people who Waze in a daze are going to start following that purple line right through this residential neighborhood, the same way they follow their GPS machines through uninhabited woodlands, across roadless desert, and straight into lakes. Who needs to think, when you have Google?

Location: 363 East Wacker Drive, The Loop

Editor

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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