Related Midwest lifted the curtain Tuesday on its long-awaited plan for the abandoned site of the ill-fated Chicago Spire, proposing a mismatched pair of slender white towers at the mouth of the Chicago River.
The taller tower at 400 N. Lake Shore Drive would top out at 1,100 feet, which would make it the fifth-tallest building in today’s skyline. Its blueprint sits 300 condos on top of a “small boutique hotel” with 175 rooms, Related Midwest President Curt Bailey said.
About 150 feet to the north, an 850-foot tower would house 550 apartments. The buildings would share a 90-foot podium, drawing cars and pedestrians into a cul-de-sac style courtyard from North Water Street.
Related Midwest is asking to roll back the planned development that had been approved for the Santiago Calatrava-designed Spire, which would have corkscrewed 2,000 feet into the air had it not sputtered out in the aftermath of the 2008 financial crisis. An eight-story-deep concrete foundation has marked the site for more than a decade, leaving a reminder of the ambitious project.
Lead architect David Childs, who also designed One World Trade Center in New York, said the staggered positions of the two towers would open a “major arrival space” and pinpoint the spot where the Chicago River meets Lake Michigan.
“I think that would be remarkable in the skyline, because they’re not just lined up in a block,” Childs said. “One comes forward and the other twists back in the other direction, as you would when you come to a spot and look out.”
Bay windows and family-sized terraces would break up the terracotta facade, tapering up to flat-edge summits that form a V shape opening toward the lake.
Related Midwest is also offering to pay for a $10 million restoration of DuSable Park just east of the site, first promised in the 1980s by Mayor Harold Washington as a monument to the city’s first permanent settler.
The plan presented on Tuesday stretches the Chicago Riverwalk past the towers and under Lake Shore Drive, leading pedestrians to a 2.2-acre park that juts into the lake between the river and the smaller Ogden Slip waterway. The plan by Maggie Daley Park designer Terry Guen includes a network of paths winding between a lawn, two monument plazas and an “outdoor classroom.”
Ald. Brendan Reilly (42nd), who would need to approve the project in order for it to move forward, said he is working with the developer to make sure the project does not overwhelm North Water Street with traffic congestion.
The current proposal draws delivery trucks directly off Lake Shore Drive, sending drivers into an underground loading dock from the southbound drive. Another ramp would send exiting trucks northbound.
Since trucks are not allowed on the drive, delivery drivers would have to enter and exit through Grand Avenue or Illinois Street, Bailey said.
Reilly said during the meeting that he was “not sold” on the project engineer’s proposed traffic patterns.
“I don’t think there’s a way to service the site with only one access point, but I want to prioritize the bulk of the traffic density to occur east of the site, not west,” the alderman added after the meeting.
The plan shown Tuesday includes a four-story parking garage with 750 spaces, accessible from North Water Street.
The developer has yet to set prices for each unit, but prospective residents should expect it to be an “expensive building,” Bailey said.
Related Midwest will not include any on-site affordable units, opting instead to honor the city’s 2015 Affordable Requirements Ordinance by paying $2.67 million into the city’s low-income housing trust fund.
Related Midwest is “not completely set” on its financing of the project, but skeptics should “take a look at history and what we have done … here and in other parts of the country,” Bailey said.
“I think if we’re able to get to a plan that works with the alderman and all the stakeholders, I believe that we’ll be able to get financed on this project,” he added.
The most optimistic timeline for the project would see foundation work get underway in summer 2019, kicking off a four-year construction period, Bailey said. DuSable Park would open at the same time as the towers.
The development at the former Spire site is the second major project touted by Related Midwest in a week, joining “The 78” megadevelopment the firm plans for the South Branch of the Chicago River.