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Old October 10th, 2005, 08:22 PM   #321
Latoso
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Originally Posted by The Urban Politician
Well, looks like the old Spertus Institute won't go to waste. How about a makeover as well?

Columbia aims to buy Spertus building
Spertus to relocate
By Hayley Graham
Campus News
School officials announced last week that the board of trustees has approved a plan to purchase the building that houses the Spertus Institute of Jewish Studies.

Columbia and Spertus are currently negotiating the details of the contract that will finalize Columbia’s purchase of Spertus’ current building at 618 S. Michigan Ave., located beside Columbia’s South Campus Building, 624 S. Michigan Ave.

Over the next 10 years, Columbia is expected to grow 2 percent, Berg said at the College Council meeting Oct. 7.

The Spertus building will add 76,000 usable square feet to Columbia’s campus of 13 buildings throughout the South Loop. Alicia Berg, vice president of campus environment, expects Columbia to sign the contract “fairly soon.” Berg did not know exactly how long the negotiations will continue.

“This will help with the overall space crunch,” Berg said.

While Columbia is unsure of what departments will be housed in the Spertus building, Berg said one idea is to use some space as a temporary student center, which Columbia’s Student Government Association has been pushing for since last fall.

Once Columbia buys the building, planning of how to use its space will begin.

Columbia will be able to move into the 10-story building once Spertus has moved into its new location. Construction of Spertus’ new 155,000 square foot steel and glass structure, which will be located in the empty lot just north of the institution’s current location at 610 S. Michigan Ave., is expected to begin in November. Spertus officially broke ground its new location during a ceremony on Oct. 9.

“We needed more space and a building that could handle more sophisticated technology,” said Betsy Gomberg, director of institutional outreach at the Spertus Institute.

Spertus has more than a half a million pieces in its collections, including rare books, maps, music, film and records of the Chicago Jewish archives that need to be stored in humidity- and temperature-controlled areas.

“This building has served us beautifully; it just wasn’t really right for a cultural center,” Gomberg said.

Spertus’ goal is to be moved into the new building by summer 2007. Columbia will then begin the building’s interior renovation. Berg said she will not know how long the renovation will take until the plan for the building is completed.
Awesome! I totally saw this coming a few posts back. I feel like Nostradamus.

I do hope they do something with the exterior façade, it's very boring as it currently stands. I also wonder if the interior renovation will include connecting floors with the South Campus Building?
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Old October 13th, 2005, 12:47 AM   #322
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Developer Buck angles for deals on Randolph

October 12, 2005

BY DAVID ROEDER SUN-TIMES COLUMNIST
John Buck, the office developer who has shaken up the market with his successes on Wacker Drive, is considering Randolph Street for his next big move downtown.

It's been known for some time that Buck has struck a partnership with Steven Levin of BriJus Property Co., owner of an older building at the northeast corner of Wacker and Randolph. But sources said Buck is trying to snatch up other buildings east of that site, some of which BriJus also controls.

Buck apparently harbors plans that extend to Franklin and perhaps farther east to Wells, picking up a block that includes little besides parking and a Walgreens. That would put him in headlong competition with developer J. Paul Beitler, who has tried for his own deal along Randolph, and the Crown family, which has empty land awaiting office tenants on the south side of Randolph at Franklin.

One expert said Buck is approaching various government agencies, including the Chicago Park District, about anchoring an office complex. Buck and Levin would not comment.

BACK TO MARKET: Fans of the Scottish Rite Cathedral at 929 N. Dearborn should take note. Tipsters report that the Masonic organization that owns the building and the land around it have put both up for sale. Three years ago, the group had a deal with Smithfield Properties LLC to sell everything but the cathedral for $30 million, but then backed out.

Now, sources said the organization wants to take its aging membership out of the city altogether and is willing to part with everything. It has hired Staubach Co. to market the block bounded by Walton, Delaware, State and Dearborn. Representatives of the group and Staubach could not be reached for comment.

STATION BREAK: Amtrak, which has approached the redevelopment of Chicago's Union Station with all the swiftness of an Empire Builder marooned in a blizzard, is said to be creakingly, achingly near the selection of a developer for the project. The choice is between a team headed by Jones Lang LaSalle Inc., which advocates adding a tower to the station, and one headed by Lincoln Property Co., which wants two towers.

Two towers would appeal to Amtrak's greed as the property owner. But Jones Lang LaSalle essentially has picked up a prior scheme that already has approval from the city's landmarks commission. "We're two years ahead of them'' in the approval process, said Hossein Youssefi, a managing director at Jones Lang LaSalle in charge of the project. We'll see if that makes any difference to Amtrak, which, if the past is a guide, will choose the most difficult way to accomplish nothing with its landmark property.

ON THE WATERFRONT: With all the emphasis on riverfront development downtown, it's natural that people should wonder when, if ever, the Kennedy family plans to develop Wolf Point, the land where the river branches north and south. Rumors about a plan have been spurred, in part, by designs that can be seen in the Chicago offices of architectural firm Skidmore, Owings & Merrill LLP.

But Christopher Kennedy, who runs the family's property interests as executive vice president of Merchandise Mart Properties Inc., said there's no push to build on Wolf Point. Skidmore, he said, has worked on designs over the last two years to link future buildings to the renovated 350 N. Orleans building, now the home of the Sun-Times. And Kennedy acknowledged that the developer Hines Interests LP had expressed interest in buying the site.

But that was before Hines finalized its deal for 300 N. La Salle, where it plans a 60-story office tower.

Kennedy said the market favors a residential building at Wolf Point, but there are no plans to pursue one. The focus instead is on expanding the family niche in furniture showrooms, such as through the purchase in September of the Boston Design Center by Vornado Realty Trust, the parent of the Kennedy-run Merchandise Mart.

Wolf Point has been in the Kennedys' hands since the 1940s. "We've been through a lot of cycles with that property,'' Kennedy said. "We take a multi-generational approach to our investments.''

Skidmore once sketched a fanciful 125-story building for Wolf Point, but Kennedy disavowed interest in any "world's tallest'' aspirations.

CALENDAR NOTE: Specialists in four real estate disciplines discuss the services they provide to major developers during a seminar Oct. 26 at University Center, 525 S. State. The lead sponsor is the Midwest chapter of the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors. Call chapter President David Hall at (708) 846-8029 for information.
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Old October 13th, 2005, 12:53 AM   #323
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Wow that's an informative article. I'm not saying Wolf Point needs to be developed RIGHT now, but if Kennedy plans on doing nothing with it then I think it's best it go to someone else.
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Old October 13th, 2005, 01:17 AM   #324
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that old plan for a 125 story building was a nice one , ohh well
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Old October 13th, 2005, 03:17 PM   #325
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Finding partners in high places
Law firm, real estate company to share a new building

By Thomas A. Corfman
Tribune staff reporter
Published October 13, 2005

Jenner & Block LLC has agreed in principle to co-anchor a River North skyscraper that would be developed by Mesirow Financial's real estate unit, as law firm expansion continues to help drive the downtown office building boom.

Together, Jenner and Mesirow would lease about 70 percent of the 1.1 million-square-foot building, proposed for a vacant parcel at Kinzie and Clark Streets. The 40-story glass structure would be completed in early 2009 at a cost of more than $300 million.

Jenner would move from One IBM Plaza, where it has been since 1973. Mesirow would move its headquarters from a terra cotta classic at 350 N. Clark St., which it has occupied since 1984 and which is across the street from the site, which will have an address of 351 N. Clark.

The deal underscores several forces at work in the downtown office market, including the expansion of law firms and the continued construction of new buildings, despite the relatively high vacancy rates.

By staying in River North, Jenner and Mesirow are bucking a trend among prestigious office tenants who are moving closer to Wacker Drive, which has become Chicago's premier business address.

In making the deal, Jenner is passing up a chance to anchor a proposed office tower at 155 N. Wacker Drive, and opting not to renew its lease at IBM Plaza, locations that most real estate observers would say are more convenient and more prominent. River North is better known for its restaurants and shopping than its office towers.

Yet the site selection, even more than the building's distinctive exterior walls designed by architect Dirk Lohan, illustrates how important a role image can play in major real estate decisions.

The proposed tower will not be named for either Mesirow or Jenner, which are bypassing what many companies would regard as a key branding opportunity.

But for Jenner, founded in 1914, and Mesirow, founded 23 years later, the deal is a rare opportunity to make long-lasting statements about culture and vision for the future.

"It comes around maybe once in someone's career," said Todd Lippman, an executive vice president with real estate firm CB Richard Ellis Inc., which isn't involved in the transaction.

Law firms and financial-services firms face strong competition in hiring top talent, and new office space is increasingly viewed as an important subjective factor in winning over prospective employees, he noted.

Mesirow Chairman and Chief Executive James Tyree preaches that his firm is the "alternative to the global, mega-giant, cookie-cutter" firms.

"We wanted a building that would match the firm's image," he said.

Donald Resnick, the Jenner partner who negotiated the deal, added, "We have never been ones to follow the herd."

The deal matches two firms of roughly the same size. Mesirow's revenue for its latest fiscal year rose 11 percent, to $298 million, from the previous year. Jenner's revenue rose 8.1 percent in 2004, to $253.5 million, compared to 2003, according to the annual survey by American Lawyer magazine.

The new tower would be built by veteran developer Richard Stein, senior managing director of Mesirow Stein Real Estate, who has been itching to build a new Mesirow headquarters since he merged his real estate company with Mesirow in 1996.

Neither Jenner nor Mesirow is large enough to anchor a building of more than 1 million square feet, according to many experts, and by joining forces they are likely to reach a better deal than they would obtain alone.

"We wanted to switch the economics of this thing from developers to tenants," Tyree said.

Mesirow and Jenner have a few clients in common, but the two firms believe those opportunities could be increased by sharing the same office building.

For Mesirow, the deal also allow it to combine offices located at 321 N. Clark St., where it leases about 150,000 square feet of space, with its headquarters, where it has 107,000 square feet. A Mesirow-managed partnership owns the headquarters building.

The new tower will be owned by another Mesirow-controlled venture that will include River North developer Albert Friedman, who controls the 54,000-square-foot site, which stretches along Kinzie from Clark to Dearborn Street. The site is just north of two familiar riverfront towers: the 321 N. Clark office building and the Westin River North at 320 N. Dearborn St.

Jenner's decision showed no room for sentimentality. In addition to the firm's longtime association with IBM Plaza, the building's owner, Chicago-based Prime Group Realty Trust, is a Jenner client.

So is Chicago developer John Buck Co., which proposed the skyscraper at 155 N. Wacker Drive that Jenner also passed on.

Moreover, Jenner's real estate adviser, Robert Chodos, was a top principal at Buck Co. until January, when he joined Colliers Bennett & Kahnweiler Inc.

At one point in its own search, Mesirow considered moving to IBM Plaza, taking over the name of the riverfront building, whose namesake tenant has moved to another new tower at 71 S. Wacker Drive. But Mesirow rejected that plan.

In its bid to retain Jenner, Prime Group promised a costly $130 million renovation of IBM Plaza. But Jenner, whose lease expires in 2010, ruled out a renewal because of uncertainty over who would take over the former IBM space and concerns about the disruption of working in a building undergoing a complete renovation.

Resnick said the difference in financial terms among the various proposals amounted to less than 1 percent of annual revenue.

The proposal for the new tower "satisfies all of our criteria in terms of how it would appeal to recruits, to clients and to the people who are going to work there," Resnick said.

- - -

Building downtown law office space

Law firm Jenner & Block and Mesirow Financial have agreed in principle to coanchor a River North skyscraper. The deal underscores the expansion of law firms and continued new building construction.

DELIVERY ADDRESS LAW FIRM SIZE, SQ. FT.
2009 300 N. LaSalle St. Kirkland & Ellis 600,000
2005 1 S. Dearborn St. Sidley Austin Brown & Wood 550,000
2005 71 S. Wacker Drive Mayer Brown Rowe Maw 450,000
2009 321 N. Clark St. Jenner & Block 375,000
2003 131 S. Dearborn St. Seyfarth Shaw 300,000
2002 191 N. Wacker Drive Gardner Carton & Douglas 198,000
2005 111 S. Wacker Drive Lord Bissell Brook 194,000
Source: CB Richard Ellis Chicago Tribune


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Old October 13th, 2005, 06:53 PM   #326
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Much good news. You don't visit the forums for like 3 days, but upon returning you get buried in it. You guys should try this some time, its rather fun
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Old October 13th, 2005, 08:05 PM   #327
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Distinctive exterior, he says. Well I'm hoping Mies' grandson outdoes himself for this one. IBM Tower and Prime Group are in big trouble now.

A couples questions... TUP -- didn't you visit Chicago recently? And two, does anyone know why Dirk Lohan left his old firm (Lohan Caprille Goetcsch) to form a new one, Lohan Anderson.
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Old October 13th, 2005, 11:20 PM   #328
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Wow, this was surprising. Should be rather large too.

But I am saddened by what is happening to IBM Tower
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Old October 14th, 2005, 02:40 AM   #329
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Columbian Builders Land $92M Construction Loan
By Mark Ruda
Last updated: October 13, 2005 12:32pm

CHICAGO-Financing is in place for one more South Loop condominium tower. Corus Bank is writing a $92-million construction loan for the Columbian project at 1160 S. Michigan Ave., which is expected to add 220 units in a 46-story building at the southwest corner of Grant Park.


Corus Bank is providing the developer, Davis Group, a non-recourse loan. The Davis Group includes Allison S. Davis, a member of the city’s plan commission.


In addition for a 229-space parking garage, plans for the Columbian include ground-floor retail space. The building, designed by DeStefano + Partners, will include units ranging from 825 sf to 6,000 sf.


The development site is north of Roosevelt Road as well as the Central Station development. This summer, plans were endorsed for 798 more units in the 1300 and 1400 blocks of S. Michigan Avenue. However, potential competition five blocks north has been eliminated, as a conversion of the Blackstone Hotel was scrapped with its sale to Sage Hospitality Resources, which is converting it to a Marriott Renaissance.
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Old October 14th, 2005, 05:15 AM   #330
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Dreaming of a Buckingham Fountain bridge
Bollards are coming soon to Queen’s Landing, but will a pedestrian crossing make a comeback?

By HAYDN BUSH, Managing editor


South Loop
In front of a crowd of roughly 30 Grant Park Advisory Council members gathered at Daley Bicentennial Plaza Tuesday night, Chicago Department of Transportation assistant project manager John Yonan promised that changes at the Queen’s Land-ing area just east of Buckingham Fountain are on tap for both the next few weeks and the more distant future.

Yonan first assured the crowd that the temporary snow fence erected at Queen’s Landing last June—which effectively blocked off a pedestrian crossing over Lake Shore Drive—would be replaced soon by permanent concrete bollards similar to those on Congress Parkway farther west in Grant Park. Yonan agreed with the widely held opinion that the temporary snow fences are unsightly and aren’t doing much to discourage intrepid pedestrians from crossing Lake Shore Drive illegally. Yonan added that the city will soon be removing the white striping that is all that remains from the old crosswalk, and which may be inciting some pedestrians to cross Lake Shore Drive.

"We wanted to get rid of the snow fence and do something aesthetically pleasing," Yonan said. ".... We have a three-week solution, which is an interim solution."

After someone in the audience wondered if the bollards, connected by iron chains, would serve as enough of a deterrent for impatient pedestrians who already clamber over the snow fences, Yonan insisted that CDOT studies have documented that bollards are a more imposing barrier.

"The snow fence is being jumped over," Yonan said. "Bollards discourage people."

But while the bollards may be completed within the next three weeks, Yonan said the possibility of a new pedestrian crossing at Queen’s Landing is still up in the air. Yonan, Grant Park Advisory Council President Bob O’Neill, Park District brass and officials from the city’s Traffic Management Authority convened at City Hall last week to begin discussing the prospect of either an overpass or underpass.

O’Neill argued that a possible overpass or underpass—even if it’s several years away—is a better option than the grade-level crossing that existed at Queen’s Landing before the city’s newly created Traffic Management Authority shut it down in June. At the time, TMA officials claimed that the crossing significantly slowed down traffic in and around Grant Park.

"Our commitment was to work with the city, the Traffic Management Authority and the Park District on a grade-separated crossing," O’Neill said. "What was out there was not a good crossing."

CDOT has toyed with the notion of building a walkway at Queen’s Landing since at least 1999. In 2001, Spanish architect Santiago Calatrava—now famous in Chicago for his Fordham Spire proposal—drew up several possibilities for connections over and under Lake Shore Drive. However, those plans were ultimately tabled.

Dusting off the four-year-old Calatrava blueprints for Queen’s Landing, Yonan stressed that the city is committed to studying as many possibilities for a crossing as exist. Calatrava’s designs ranged from a minimalist, Y-shaped overpass to an ornate suspension bridge. Yonan stressed that those designs are only a starting point for discussion, adding that other possibilities will be taken under consideration.

"My intent tonight is to listen to you," Yonan said.

Yonan did say that the city would likely discourage the construction of underpasses similar to those on North Lake Shore Drive, which often flood during the winter. If an underpass is approved, the city would likely want to raise Lake Shore Drive several feet to keep the underpass from flooding, Yonan said. One of Calatrava’s overpass designs, meanwhile, could require raising Lake Shore Drive as many as 13 feet in the air. If the city goes ahead with a pedestrian bridge, that could include lowering Lake Shore Drive to bring down the bridge and preserve some views of the city. Several of those in attendance said they hope the city preserves the vista looking south from Grant Park to the steps of the Field Museum

All of those options, Yonan said, would add significantly to the cost of a new pedestrian connection, which he estimated would likely cost between $5 and $10 million and is at least three to four years away. He added that state and federal money may be necessary to complete the project.

"It comes down to when funds are available," Yonan said.
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Old October 14th, 2005, 05:16 AM   #331
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Mayor does the talking for his new planning commissioner

October 13, 2005

BY FRAN SPIELMAN City Hall Reporter Advertisement






With strong opinions about how he wants Chicago to look, Mayor Daley has always been his own planning commissioner.

Never was that more evident than on the day he named a new one.

After introducing Lori Healey as his seventh commissioner of planning and development in 16 years, Daley proceeded to interject on virtually every question directed at Healey.

When a reporter asked about the Central Loop tax increment financing district due to expire in 2007 and whether Healey planned to renew or expand it, Daley could be heard in the background whispering, "You don't know."

Healey obliged by saying, "I haven't been directly involved with anything to do with the Central Loop TIF in quite some time. It's going to take some time to get in and take a look at it and really determine what's the best course of action."

Mayor jumps in



When a reporter asked how Healey would keep the momentum going on Block 37, Daley jumped in and talked about the coming groundbreaking ceremonies for the office building that will be anchored by the ground floor studios of WBBM-Channel 2.

"We're almost ready to go," he said.

The mayor jumped in once again when Healey was asked about whether the project needs a built-in entertainment component.

"What are you going to do? Am I in Chicago? Do we have theaters on Randolph Street? Do we have theaters on Dearborn Street? We do have theaters downtown," the mayor said. Healey said it's her understanding that Mills Corp., master developer for Block 37, has been "in deep discussions with any number of entertainment providers in the block. There's food. There's restaurants. There's great shopping. Within short order, they're going to be ready to unveil what those draws are going to be."

Before Daley started running interference, Healey made it a point to promise a "clear, proactive vision" for Chicago neighborhoods, many of which are involved in the CHA's $1 billion transformation project.

That's something Healey is familiar with as the CHA's vice chair since 2002.

"So many great things are happening in neighborhoods across the city. There's new communities that are being created. . . . We need to create visions that will address those challenges," she said.

Healey replaces Denise Casalino, the former engineer appointed two years ago to expedite projects caught in the City Hall bottleneck. Casalino resigned last week to avoid further scrutiny of building permits granted to her developer husband.
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Old October 14th, 2005, 07:00 AM   #332
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"What are you going to do? Am I in Chicago? Do we have theaters on Randolph Street? Do we have theaters on Dearborn Street? We do have theaters downtown," the mayor said.
That's hilarious. Its so classic Daley.
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Old October 21st, 2005, 04:11 AM   #333
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from Chicago Journal.....

Event organizer Peter Ziv made it clear early on that he had an ax to grind: the 35-story tower planned for 720 S. Clark. Ziv charged that the project, along with the high-rise and town house development proposed by Concord Homes for Clark Street south of Polk, will create an unsightly canyon along Polk Street and bring an extra 1,300 cars through the Polk-Clark intersection each day.

Ziv, a resident of the next-door Folio Square condo complex that would lose its eastern vistas were the tower built, argued that developers should move the tower to the extreme north end of the lot and install public green space on its current footprint. He said the development was "in direct opposition" to 2003’s Near South Community Plan, available on the Department of Planning and Development Web site, which calls for Polk Street to remain a pedestrian destination.

"We are tax-paying residents of Printers’ Row," Ziv said at the meeting, indignantly holding up a rendering of the proposed project. "These buildings are not."
What a ******* retard. Hey, dumb ass pedestrains are created from high density, with out high density and mixed use, there are no pedestrains. This misguided moron needs to pick up a book on what creates a 'pedestrin destination'. Also how the hell does one high rise and a couple of townhomes create 1300 more cars? I hope those townhomes don't happen what a ******* waste of space that will be, Dearborn Park III with plenty of future NIMBYism to come with it.

How are those buildings not paying taxes? The developer is purchasing the property, and is therefore paying taxes on it. The parking operator who sold it payed taxes on the lot, and the new residents will be paying taxes. I guess townhomes canyonize streets now too. This is the ******* city you retarded pussy-ass ex-suburban ****nut, if you don't like canyonized streets, you shouldn't have moved to one in DOWNTOWN CHICAGO!

Damn that article riled me up, now for the good news....

All 3 items on todays agenda were approved by the Chicago Plan Commison....

300 North LaSalle.
-Victor got a card from some guy with Hines, and should get a exact height soon. Hieghest occupied floor is ~750' , which was mentioned in the meeting. It will be 62 stories
-The Building will be LEED Certified, and will include a green roof.
-13,000 square feet of retail space
-A public plaza will connect this tower to Wells Street, creating a through-block pedestrian connection.
-225 parking spaces on 4 floors below street level (3 levels below grade).
-Space is being provided for a future transit station on the Carroll Avenue Right-of-Way (ya know, the light rail proposal)

-Also Alderman Naturas defended the hieght of the tower and said "tall buildings should be promoted along the river. It is magnificent when you are on a tourboat, and this is a magnificent building. Its hard to build tall build tall buildings in residential neighborhoods because the residents want to keep them out, where else would you put it? This is the place for it." (one of the commisioners who isn't usually part of the meetings mentioned it dwarfs everything around it)

531-549 North St. Clair. THIS PROJECT IS SO ******* COOL!
-37 story building, 312 units,with a main roof hieght of 427' (Victor will be getting the total height from them. Both the architect and developer are very nice and friendly.
-an existing four story building on St. Clair to the north will be preserved and turned into 9 loft units.
-The project will be LEED certified with these awesome features: 95% green roof, grey water irrigation (all rain water collected will be used within the building), the tower will have a virtical greenhouse of hanging gardens running up the side of the building to filter the car exhust from the parking garage. The garage will have dimming lights attached to motion sensors (increasing illumination as a car approaches) to reduce energy consuption.
-The building will replace a really, really disgusting parking garage in Streeterville, but will retain 275 public parking spaces within the new building in addition to 277 private parking spaces all set behind a glass wall.

And here is a kicker: Alderman Bernard Stone asked "Ya know this project is in Streeterville, where is SOAR to comment on this? They comment on everything in the neighborhood." When the project lawyer said there was no letter of opposition, and that SOAR was in support, he goes "well that's a first".
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Old October 21st, 2005, 04:18 AM   #334
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Hehe. Good news. Thanks for the nice updates.
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Old October 21st, 2005, 05:52 AM   #335
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future transit station on the Carroll Avenue Right-of-Way (ya know, the light rail proposal)
Cool---I hadn't heard anything about this. What's the deal?
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Old October 21st, 2005, 05:53 AM   #336
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I'm excited about the St. Clair building. This thing is right behind me. Is the 4 story building your talkng about the one with the white hen in it?

Also 300 N Lasalle will be 775'. I saw it myself.
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Old October 21st, 2005, 06:01 AM   #337
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Maybe none of SOAR's members views are blocked. That's all they really care about anyway.
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Old October 21st, 2005, 06:55 AM   #338
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It's nice to know that Ald Natarus is on our side, not snootyville nimby group.
I hope he fully supports Fordham Spire without asking for height modification.
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Old October 21st, 2005, 07:28 AM   #339
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I hope he asks for a height addition!
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Old October 21st, 2005, 02:33 PM   #340
Chi_Coruscant
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Good new.......

300 N. LaSalle Plans Get Green Light
By Mark Ruda (http://www.globest.com/news/397_397/.../139413-1.html)
Last updated: October 20, 2005 04:52pm

CHICAGO-While the proposed 745-foot height of the building raised some eyebrows, Hines Interests LP’s plan for a 57-story, 1.3-million-sf office tower at 300 N. LaSalle St. got a green light Thursday. The plan commission endorsed the $400-million project, as well as a zoning change that will allow the Houston-based developer to build an office tower 62% larger than allowed under existing zoning.

Hines Interests already has lured Kirkland & Ellis away from the Aon Center to 600,000 sf in its riverfront building once it is completed in 2009. In addition to office space, plans call for 13,000-sf of retail space, which most likely will include a restaurant.

However, Hines Interests’ office tower will dwarf surrounding low- and mid-rise properties sharing the riverfront, notes plan commission member Allison Davis. Taller buildings already line the riverfront a quarter-mile to the east, and Trump International Hotel & Tower will dwarf both Marina City and 330 N. Wabash Ave. Closer to 300 N. LaSalle St., though, is the 3.5-million-sf Merchandise Mart, a mid-rise building, as is the redeveloped Reid-Murdoch building at 325 N. LaSalle St. and Helene Curtis building at 325 N. Wells St.

“The planning department has always taken the position that along the river, we would try to encourage tall buildings,” says 42nd Ward Alderman Burton Natarus. “This is a tall building. This is a magnificent building. What’s there now is kind of shabby.”

The site, which runs along LaSalle Street from the river to Carroll Avenue, is now a parking lot. Hines Interests is acquiring the 85,080-sf site for $32.5 million from a limited liability corporation controlled by Michael W. Reschke, former chairman of Prime Group Realty Trust.

Designed by Pickard Chilton Architects Inc., the building is expected to meet standards for Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design certification. It also will have a hook-up at Carroll Avenue to an underground bus route.
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