We’re Just Months Away From the Start of Two New Wacker Drive Office Towers

Documents filed with the City of Chicago reveal that advanced planning is underway to build two new office buildings on South Wacker Drive, immediately south of the Willis Tower. They also show that construction should start by next Summer.

The locations of 301 South Wacker and 321 South Wacker. (Base map via Apple Maps)
The locations of 301 South Wacker and 321 South Wacker. (Base map via Apple Maps)

The buildings, which will bear the addresses of 301 South Wacker and 321 South Wacker will be on the same block as the existing 311 South Wacker building. 321 will erase the surface parking lot just to the southwest of the existing skyscraper, and 301 will erase the green space to its northwest.

Erasing that quasi-public park would be a shame, since it is one of the few green spaces in The Loop, and back when offices and tourism were things, office workers and tourists used it extensively.

2016 rendering of 321 South Wacker Drive
2016 rendering of 321 South Wacker Drive

We last reported on a plan for this property back in 2016. At that time, it was a Murphy Development project, with 48-story skyscrapers designed by Kohn Pederson Fox. But since then, it’s been crickets.

As for the new towers, what we know right now is that they are both planned to be office buildings with retail space.

Expect to see construction start soon. The developers of these new buildings intend to conform to the existing zoning for this block, so they won’t have to go through the whole public vetting process. The only thing they’re asking the city for is a reduction in parking requirements to just 222 spaces, down from 382. The city has given its blessing, but with the requirement that construction start by July of 2022.

The 1986 zoning for this block has an overall F.A.R. of 32.44. Which is a lot. The city also permits a maximum building height of 1,000 feet on this block. That’s 39 feet taller than the already-constructed building.

This doesn’t mean we’ll see a pair of 1,000-foot-tall buildings, but that certainly would be interesting. The reason there’s a big parking lot next to 311 South Wacker is because when 311 was built, it was supposed to have a 65-story twin tower in that space, but it was never built.

While we’re blathering on about what was “supposed” to happen here but never did, when 311 South Wacker was built 30-something years ago, it was supposed to rehab an abandoned east-west streetcar tunnel under the Chicago River for use as a pedway link to Union Station. Why the city repeatedly allows real estate developers to shirk their stated commitments to the city’s Pedway system is one of those things we’ll never understand.

311 South Wacker (File)
311 South Wacker (File)

Location: 301 South Wacker Drive, The Loop

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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