Do We Smell a New Residential Tower in Printer’s Row?

You know that surface parking lot in the South Loop at the intersection of Harrison and Dearborn that trashes the urban fabric and density of Printer’s Row? We think it’s going away.

The surface parking lot at 611 South Dearborn Street, across the street from the Transportation Building. (Via Apple Maps)
The surface parking lot at 611 South Dearborn Street, across the street from the Transportation Building. (Via Apple Maps)

We’re not sure what the plans are for 611 South Dearborn Street just yet. But an interesting letter went out from the Department of Planning and Development recently. It was a response to an inquiry from a Loop law firm. We didn’t see the lawyer’s side of the conversation, but it’s not hard to surmise from the response that someone is interested in putting that parking lot out of our misery.

Without information and details about using the remaining development rights, we are unable to define what specific approval is required. Depending on the scope and scale, either a minor change or amendment, both of which require consent from all property owners, would most likely be required.

So, someone is clearly inquiring with the city about what could possibly be developed at 611.

The parking lot is part of Planned Development 206, which includes the Transportation Building across the street. Part of the zoning for the Transportation Building at 600 South Dearborn Street requires it to provide off-street parking for its residents with in the PD boundary. Which is why there’s a parking lot across the street.

But what if the parking was hidden inside a nice, tasteful, high-rise that fit in with the character of the neighborhood? Wouldn’t that be 31 flavors of awesome? That’s where we think this is going.

PD 206 allows for a maximum of 400 residences within its boundaries. Currently, the Transportation Building has 294 residences. So there is room for another 106 new homes in the PD, which maybe just possibly could perhaps replace that heat-spewing surface parking lot.

The Transportation building is 22 stories tall, which means an average of 13 homes per floor. Assuming the new homes would be the same size as the old ones (not likely), that means the new building at 611 could be nine stories of residences. Plus a floor of parking to replace the current parking lot. Plus another floor of parking for the new homes. Plus a floor of retail space at sidewalk level. Now we’re up to 12 floors.

A dozen floors isn’t a lot in a city like Chicago, but it’s a bit of urban infill that is long, long overdue. And if the owners of the land are going to go through all the bother of hiring lawyers and architects and engineers and upgrading their business cards, maybe they’ll just throw the monkey after the tea kettle and ask the city for permission to go the full 22 stories. It’s just up to the bean counters to make it work.

The Transportation Building (File)
The Transportation Building (File)

Location: 611 South Dearborn Street, South Loop

Author: Editor

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

Share This Post On