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Chicago's #1 Fan
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Discussion Starter #1 (Edited by Moderator)
Height: 819 ft
Floor count: 71
Location: South Wabash
Construction end: 2009
Architect: Solomon, Cordwell, Buenz and Associates
Developer: Mesa Development Company

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West facade




Business
Landmark group fights 67-story Jewelers Row tower


February 4, 2005

BY DAVID ROEDER Business Reporter


Taking a stand against a project backed by mayoral allies, a landmarks preservation group is opposing a proposed 67-story tower developers would attach to three buildings in the historic Jewelers Row district along Wabash Avenue.

The Landmarks Preservation Council of Illinois said a building of that scale is inappropriate for Wabash Avenue and an adjoining landmark district covering Michigan Avenue.

"We think the building shouldn't be that high. This is really the most historic part of downtown," said David Bahlman, the organization's president.

The group outlined its concerns in a letter to Denise Casalino, commissioner of the city's Department of Planning and Development. Her agency is reviewing a zoning proposal that would allow the condominium project. Approval from the city's landmarks panel also would be required.

The building would rise at 21-35 S. Wabash, site of three small buildings that date from the construction boom following the 1871 Chicago Fire. Plans call for the front portions of the structures to be preserved, with the high-rise starting at a 30-foot setback.

The proposal is from the same development team responsible for the 57-story Heritage at Millennium Park at the southeast corner of Randolph and Wabash, just outside the historic district. That project entailed the preservation of building facades along Wabash, and drew Mayor and Mrs. Daley as condo buyers.

The investment team includes construction firm Walsh Group, whose owners have long-standing ties to the Daley family, and Mesa Development LLC. To present their zoning case to the city, they hired the firm Daley & George, where mayoral brother Michael is the lead partner.

Mesa Principal Richard Hanson said the project is in keeping with the mayor's goal of a lively, 24-hour downtown. But he said he's received no explicit or clandestine support from Daley.

"I haven't spoken with the mayor about this," Hanson said. "We are going through the proper channels with the city. We've got a long way to go."

Criticism of the project ignores the presence of skyscrapers already part of the Wabash district or just outside of it, Hanson said. Among them are the 50-story building at 55 E. Monroe and the 44-story CNA Plaza, 325 S. Wabash.

He also argued that the buildings he would take over are mostly empty now above the first floor, and they would be renovated to provide space for the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. The developers have a contract to buy the property from the institute under a deal that's been talked about for years.

"Those empty buildings don't do Jewelers Row any good," Hanson said.

Downtown's alderman, Burton Natarus (42nd), voiced unreserved support for the plan. "I have no problem with that at all. We're going to blend it in with Jewelers Row," Natarus said.

A spokeswoman for Casalino had no comment other than that her department is studying the zoning application.

While acknowledging that high-rises co-exist with Jewelers Row, Bahlman said they all pre-date enactment of the historic district in 2003. The designation recognized the district's role in the growth of downtown's retail trade. Adding a high-rise now would open the door for new construction in historic areas nationwide, he said.

His organization is the largest private group in the state that supports preservation, and its board is dominated by leading architects and lawyers.

Hanson said that while the building, which would contain about 335 homes, is tall, its narrow profile would minimize its impact. The architectural firm Solomon Cordwell Buenz & Associates Inc., responsible for the well-received Heritage at Millennium Park, has been commissioned for the design.
 

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I say go for it!!! The work done to preserve the facades on the west side of the Heritage has been a resounding success. They look fantastic and will surely enjoy a new lease on life.

Now, naturally, I'm going to push for SCB to actually finish painting this building unlike the Heritage.
 

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Good to hear that they'll preserve the front sections of the buildings, but I'd like to see a rendering before I decide whether it's good or not.
 

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Bahlman's group isn't NIMBYs... They are certainly an incredibly valuable -- and necessary -- voice to have.

Geoff_diamond--are you implying that Heritage is not going to be all white.. that they're going to leave part of that exposed?!??!
 

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^Actually, I'm all for preservation. I am not against a group that feels the same way. But seriously, why can't they recognize concientious development when they see it?
 

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Discussion Starter #7
Landmark's friends battle Loop tower

By David Mendell

Tribune staff reporter
Published February 4, 2005


Historic preservationists are fighting to severely cut the size of a proposed 67-story luxury condominium tower in the Loop that they believe will overwhelm a landmark district and disfigure the South Michigan Avenue skyline.


But the advocates seem to be waging an uphill battle: The final touches are being put on a nearby residential tower of similar scale, The Heritage at Millennium Park, soon to be home to Mayor Richard Daley. Also, the development group proposing the tower is represented by John George, an attorney with immense City Hall clout. George is a law partner of the mayor's brother, Michael.

This intersection of influential forces sets up a timeless battle in Chicago: the interests of powerful developers who want to make money and entice new residents downtown versus preservationists who want to maintain the city's architectural heritage.

Preservationists worry that this tower would give developers carte blanche to construct such buildings anywhere in the city, especially during a period when controversial residential condo towers are proposed throughout the Downtown region. Developers argue that the city would be unwise to freeze the current architecture in place, that progress must be embraced and not stymied.

"It's a horrible precedent to be setting," said David Bahlman, president of the Landmarks Preservation Council of Illinois, a non-profit advocacy group. "You can just see condo tower after condo tower along Wabash. And for South Michigan Avenue, the skyline would wind up being a steppingstone to Wabash. It's all just a terrible idea."

Preservationists primarily oppose the tower because it is located in the Jewelers Row Landmark District, which was designated by the city to protect the architecture in a corridor along Wabash Aveune known for its history of jewelry makers.

The 67-story tower would rise one block behind South Michigan from the back of three buildings in the district that run from 21 to 29 S. Wabash. The facades of those historic former jewelry stores likely would be preserved, and retail businesses would fill the first floor of the high-rise, according to the development plan.

But the tower also would alter the South Michigan skyline, as well as add a skyscraper to the surrounding mix of medium-rise buildings along Wabash that are mostly under a dozen stories. The Art Institute of Chicago put the properties on the market last spring.

"You see these kinds of towers all over the city, but we don't think it is compatible in that corridor," said Jim Peters, planning director for the preservation council. "This is a 67-story building added to a three- or four-story building. What does it do to these two historic districts? It would be wedged in between the two."

City planning and landmark officials ultimately must settle the fight. The developers are seeking a zoning change from a mixed-use area to a residential-business planned development area.

The city's Commission on Landmarks also would have to approve the development because it falls inside a landmark district and would visually impact another district, the South Michigan Avenue Historic District.

Preservationists contend that such a tower is a clear violation of city laws governing landmark districts.

Copyright © 2005, Chicago Tribune
 

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I share Bahlman's concerns about marring the South Wabash / South Michigan landscape. But on the other hand, these areas hvae to be made viable for development. Maybe instead of just a "yes/no" sort of stamp on the building, the LPCI and the city should demand unbelievably good design before they approve the project. And of course maintenance of the Wabash facades, whenever they are worth keeping.
 

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It's all about balance and the willingness to aknowledge that time marches forward whether we like it or not. We are not living in a vacuum, and must be willing to find viable alternatives to keep the city alive while preserving it's past.
I think that the results of how they kept the feel of Wabash between Washington and Randolph where the Heritage was built turned out well. When your on the sidewalk, you would never know that a 57 story condo tower looms above. If this new project accomplishes the same thing, than I see nothing wrong with it.
As for interrupting the skyline along Michigan.... Come on, it's not as if there are no other highrise buildings in the back ground. This is a city dammit, it is supposed to be dense. Were not talking about building this in Galena or something.
 

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Well they seem to be mostly boarded up anyway. The building might revitalize that area, while preserving the facades. I don't see a problem with that. I would like there to be a good design there though so that it doesn't ruin the history of the area. Other then that i say the tower should be built, those buildings are just standing there empty.
 

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The plan is to do the same thing they did at Heritage (I hate that name...), which is to preserve the facades at street level. This will preserve the feel at the sidewalk level, which I think is important, while allowing for a highrise, just out of your sightline when standing in front of the buildings.
They plan to do retail on the ground floor, and they will hide parking behind the upper floors of the old facades. I can tell you that at this time, the vast majority of the space on the upper floors of these buildings is vacant.
I think this worked out well at the Heritage, and I think it will work out fine here.
 

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I'm all about reusing historic facades on new buildings. I think this is a practice that could be very widely used around the loop.

Now... to answer ChicagoLover's question: YES... they are leaving that god-aweful color (I like to call it "ran-outta-money-gray") all over the Heritage. Okay, I'm not trying to hijack this thread... but, god damn... I'm NEVER going to let this one go:



The areas consistent with the two lower red circles are staying grey... as far as the mechanical space on the roof... I'm not sure what they're going to do with the southern portion (it sure has been a LONG time since I've seen painters up there). It just looks like shit... honestly looks unfinished to me.
 

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That is bizarre... How did you find out they were staying grey? How do you know? Can the developer seriously keep in Daley's good graces if he doesn't finish the place where Daley himself will live? The Heritage (despite its name) is a pretty solid building. Looks great in general, but those are pock marks. How could they have run out of money? Aren't they making a a substantial amount on that project?
 

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It seems like the new development on Wabash would be positive, not negative, for preservation. I imagine they'll clean up those facades, and un-board them. It'll look great as long as the tower is set back far from the facades.
 

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ChicagoLover said:
That is bizarre... How did you find out they were staying grey? How do you know? Can the developer seriously keep in Daley's good graces if he doesn't finish the place where Daley himself will live? The Heritage (despite its name) is a pretty solid building. Looks great in general, but those are pock marks. How could they have run out of money? Aren't they making a a substantial amount on that project?
I think that the original plan called for those sections to stay grey. Looking back at old renderings of the building you can see that those sections were colored grey. It wasn't a lack of money.
 

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Discussion Starter #17
Actually, I believe that that portion of The Heritage will be painted. We must remember what time of year it is. I don't think that this is the best painting weather :)
Who the hell want's to be 600' up in the air whan it's 25 degrees. It's windier and colder the higher up you go. Lets see how it looks but June or july.
 

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^I agree with Butler, I think the weather has a lot to do with the unfinished paint job on the mechanical housing at the top. When I lived up on the far north side, the building at 5320 N Sheridan went condo from apartment and they planned a new painting scheme going from plain white to a nice combo of grays and dark blue. They started the paint job in October, stopped in December, and finished it up in the spring when the weather warmed up enough for the paint to not freeze on the surface. In the meantime, for several months, there was about 25% of the facade that was woefully unfinished and it looked like sh*t.
As for the lower two circles, I think they are supposed to be gray as they are. I am more concerned that they still haven't installed the balcony railings. The lumber rails look worse than the lack of paint.
 

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Well, first off, that picture is from four months ago and little has been done since then. I was never really serious when I joked that they had run out of money, it was a VERY profitable development. But, I maintain that it certainly looks like they came up short.

At any rate, as far as the weather goes... there was PLEANTY of time before it got too cold for them to finish if they were going to - I'm still not convinced that they are going to paint the rest of the mechanical space white :(
 

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Discussion Starter #20
You know what, I don't see how they could have possibly run out of money, considering that the very same development company who's doing The Heritage has just proposed constructing a 67-story tower a few blocks to the south on the very same street.

We'll just have to wait and see what happens.
 
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