Fern Hill pitches colorful 36-story Old Town housing tower

$250M project would feature 500 units and retail space

Fern Hill Pitches Colorful 36-Story Old Town Housing Tower
Fern Hill’s Nick Anderson with rendering of of Old Town Canvas (LinkedIn, Fern Hill, Getty)

Fern Hill aims to deliver some eye candy to the North Side’s Old Town area with a colorful apartment tower.

The firm, led by former Related Midwest executive Nick Anderson, has unveiled plans for a 36-story, 500-unit development at 1600 North LaSalle Drive, near the city’s largest park and Lake Michigan, Crain’s reported

The project, dubbed Old Town Canvas, calls for demolition of the single-story Walgreens at the site, but a new store would be included in the high-rise. With an estimated cost ranging from $200 million to $300 million, Fern Hill is banking on the steadily growing apartment demand in Chicago.

The development was briefly in flux as David Adjaye, a famed architect who was designing the structure, stepped away amid sexual assault allegations. It would have been Adjaye’s first Chicago project. 

Now, with GREC Architects leading design, Fern Hill is making strides with the proposal, about two years after first taking interest in the project. Old Town Canvas is slated for 400 market-rate units and 100 affordable units, adhering to city regulations regarding affordable housing in new rental buildings. 

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It’s also set to include ground-floor retail space and a parking garage, the outlet reported. The building’s exterior would be adorned with colorful panels that change hues throughout the day, paying homage to the neighborhood’s artistic heritage.

Fern Hill has gathered community feedback over the past two years to help guide its vision, before presenting its proposal during a Sept. 26 meeting, hosted by 2nd Ward Alderman Brian Hopkins. Residents have stated that they wish to see more retail options in the area and a new grocer to replace a Treasure Island store that closed in 2018 within a property now owned by Fern Hill.

Multiple nearby property owners, including the Moody Church, have allowed the developer to acquire “air rights,” enabling the construction of a taller building than permitted under the city’s zoning code. This move not only supports the project’s size but also acts as a safeguard against excessive future development in the vicinity.

Old Town Canvas will still need support from City Council in order for construction to commence.

— Quinn Donoghue 

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