The man who turned a grotty corner of The Loop into an architectural showcase and ushered in an age of downtown Chicago mega-developments has died. Jim Lowenberg was 86 years old.
Lowenberg went into the family business after earning a degree in architecture from M.I.T. Building on a successful career designing skyscrapers around downtown Chicago, he helped found Magellan Development in 1996. That enabled him to create his crowning achievement — Lakeshore East, the ring of residential and commercial towers surrounding a six-acre park on the southwest corner of Lake Michigan and the Chicago River. Lakeshore East first appeared on paper in 1969, and 51 years later is now just four skyscrapers away from completion.
Before the park, before the supermarket and school, before the curvalicious Aqua Tower and the angular 101-story Vista Tower, Lakeshore East was a disused Illinois Central freight yard. For generations, rail cars loaded and unloaded ships on the Chicago River from this location, leaving behind an industrial wasteland. But where some saw stain on the city’s urban fabric, Mr. Lowenberg saw a vibrant community of green grass and blue glass rising into the Chicago skyline.
The central feature of Lakeshore East is its park, a feature of which Mr. Lowenberg was particularly proud. Clearly his vision has legs, as urban parks have since become a staple of large high-rise developments across the city.
Mr. Lowenberg was involved in a number of civic organizations, including the Chicago Symphony Orchestra. He died of cancer on October 14, at his home in Palm Beach.