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Proposed Helmut Jahn Supertall and Essex Inn Tower Make Their Public Debut

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rendering: JAHN

Last night at East-West University, two new proposals had their first public meeting. The meeting, held by the Near South Planning Board was the first detailed public viewing of the planned towers to be located 800 and 1000 south Michigan Avenue, each of which had their own respective presentations.

First up was 800 South Michigan Avenue, better known as the Essex Inn. This project plans a full restoration of the existing 254-room hotel, as well as replacing the adjacent parking garage to the south with a new apartment building. The Essex Inn was sold last fall to Oxford Capitol Development, a developer that has been very busy with recent hotel projects in downtown Chicago including The Langham, Felix, Godfrey and the upcoming LondonHouse Hotel. In restoring the Essex Inn, meeting rooms and back of house functions which in the past had been lodging space will be returned to that use, creating an additional 22 guest rooms for a grand total of 276 in the restored building. The design of the project by Hartshorne Plunkard Architecture would then relocate the meeting and back of house spaces into the podium structure of the planned adjacent tower.


[Photos: Shawn Ursini]

The adjacent tower was initially submitted to the city as a 48-story building topping out at 515 feet. This however has changed, as the planned tower has now grown to 54 stories and 605 feet. The proposed 454 apartments would be a mix of studios and convertibles to three-bedroom units. The residences would be begin at the 12 floor, just above a "cut-out" void in the tower's form and framed by a collection of diagonal columns supporting the tower above. The top of this void is aligned to the roof line of the existing hotel and would preserve light and air circulation for the hotel's south facing windows. The void also presents a gesture to the older hotel building and provides a visual reference to the existing scale of the Michigan Avenue Historic District, which the mid-twentieth century hotel would be officially added to.

Oxford would also have to adhere to the strict guidelines and requirements of the Landmarks Commission who would have to approve the design of the new tower as well as adjustments to existing building during restoration. The fact that the new tower would sit within the unique historic district was also the reasoning behind pulling the tower's front facade up to the lot line along Michigan Avenue to hold the streetwall and visually contribute to it.

Inside the open-air void would be an amenity deck and outdoor pool for the apartments and just below on the sixth floor, would be a hotel bar with a terrace facing Michigan Avenue. The remainder of the podium would be filled out the relocated hotel spaces and 155 parking spaces. At the ground floor, a connected lobby flow into the existing hotel.

The tower would be capped with a green roof and glass curtain wall which would extend above the roof line to screen any mechanical equipment from view. The curtain wall facade would also wrap the entire tower's exterior, with the exception of the void. As required with a new planned development, the project would make contributions to the affordable housing fund, but those contributions would be under the older formula as it filed with city before the new rules took effect. As mentioned in the public meeting, the project, once complete, would also generate "millions" in additional property and hotel taxes. The unique design would add to the portfolio of HPA's recent modern design work which includes the towers at 1000 South Clark Street and the upcoming replacement of Ed Debevic's in River North.

Next up for discussion was the Helmut Jahn designed project at 1000 South Michigan, where a surface parking lot now exists. The development team, which has a mix of experience with projects in Chicago and New York, including another Jahn-designed tower at 50 West Street in lower Manhattan, also purchased the neighboring vintage office building to the south at 1006 South Michigan Avenue and will combine both sites into a single Planned Development.

Related stories:

·The Fuse Has Been Lit for the South Loop's Next Big Building Boom
·Helmut Jahn-Designed Supertall for South Loop Would Become Chicago's Fifth Tallest
·76-Story Rafael Viñoly-Designed Tower Proposed for South Loop
·Developer Plans Boutique Hotel Makeover For Essex Inn

The site did once have a Planned Development (Number 932) covering the existing surface parking lot, but this project never got off the ground and the PD approval has since expired. The previous project had planned three towers with a total of 656 condos. One tower would have been located along Michigan Avenue, while the other two would be along Wabash. The surface lot which runs through the block is now split between different owners, with the larger Wabash lot not included in the current proposal. A 30-foot property easement on the rear parking lot would allow for access of the new tower's parking and loading, as well as an internal motor court. here will be no vehicular access directly to Michigan Avenue, but rather would be channeled to 9th Street via the driveway placed onto the 30-foot easement.

The tower would stand 86 stories and 1001'-7" in height to the top of the screen wall. The overall height has since dropped by about 30 feet since the development plans were first filed with the city a little more than a month ago. The modern design features a series of cantilevered blocks progressively getting a little wider as the tower grows vertically. The residential building will feature 358 condos and 148 apartments, although the unit breakdown numbers may shift as the design is refined. At ground level, the tower will have two separate lobbies for the condos and apartments as well as retail space and a open-air pedestrian passageway leading to the rear driveway with a public art display that has yet to be designed. This passageway is located in a 20 foot setback between the proposed tower and the existing neighbor to the north, the former Standard Oil Headquarters at 910 South Michigan Avenue, which was converted into condominiums.

The rental apartments would make up the lower floors of the building, with condos then occupying the upper three cantilevering blocks. The area lost in the setback to preserve light and air circulation for the neighboring 910 Building is then recovered in the southerly cantilever over the roof of 1006 South Michigan Avenue and allows for expansive lake and park views for the upper level units. Meanwhile on the lower floors, apartments are placed on the east end of the tower to the screen parking levels and its 598 spaces from Michigan Avenue and Grant Park. These lower floor apartment units will also have views overlooking Grant Park and allows the building to visually read a complete residential tower, rather one perched above unoccupied parking levels.

The structure is planned to have 10'-0" floor to floor heights in apartments and 11'-6" in the condos, and as the unit mix changes, the overall height of tower may grow or shrink accordingly. The entire structure will be a concrete frame, but all of it will be concealed within a skin of glass and other cladding materials. Within the glass facade will be an arrangement of balconies and "French" balconies (also known as 'Juliet balconies') facing eastward towards the park. There was a desire among the development team to include balconies to have the building stand out as a residential tower, rather than a glass office building. At the very top 86th floor is a residential amenity deck that would be located at a far higher elevation than any other such space in Chicago.

The tower rises as a very slender form above the parking levels which are positioned to the west. The podium roof contains another amenity deck, this one largely outdoors with a green roof. There will be 23,000 square feet of green roof in total spread across the tower. The development is expected to cost about $385 million to build and will generate an astounding $105 million in property taxes over the first 10 years, as well as $5 million in real estate transfer taxes from the condo sales.

As expected, nearby residents expressed the typical concerns of traffic, density, shadows as well as stating the projects are "out of scale" in the neighborhood. Particularly contentious was traffic, with some in the crowd disputing the professional traffic engineer's statements of 9th Street being a low-volume street easily capable of additional vehicles and that only 30% of the area residents drive to work daily. There was also some dismay over the prospect of additional renters in area versus new condo dwellers, despite the downtown location.

In regards to the proposed height versus context, Roosevelt and Michigan Avenue is already approved for 900 feet and could go higher with the finalizing of Viñoly's design for that project now advancing under the leadership of Crescent Heights. The development teams for both 800 and 1000 South Michigan expressed a desire re-balance the skyline's south end and that the historic streetwall as we see it now was once a scale buster when buildings like the Stevens Hotel (now the Chicago Hilton) was built to become the largest hotel in the world. 4th ward Alderman William Burns expressed support for the idea of development on both underutilized sites and mentioned that density is what makes cities work. It was made known that more design changes are likely to come, so stay tuned.

Shawn Ursini

1000 S Michigan Ave. Chicago, IL