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What the Studio Gang-Designed Wanda Vista Supertall Means for Chicago

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Rendering by Studio Gang Architects

Last night, over 500 people packed a ballroom at the Radisson Blu hotel in the Studio Gang-designed Aqua tower to get a first glimpse and learn more about a new supertall tower also designed by Studio Gang for the Lakeshore East neighborhood. The project's public debut started off on a somewhat mysterious note, with news about the tower coming from China last July, and much speculation about Jeanne Gang's involvement in the project. Any remaining shrouds of mystery regarding the condo and hotel tower were dispelled last night as a panel of stakeholders described the project at length to a packed ballroom. Standing at a height of roughly 1,200 feet with an estimated cost of nearly $1 billion, the proposed Wanda Vista is poised to become a very important and pivotal development for Chicago.

Developed by Chicago-based Magellan Development and the Dalian Wanda Group from China, the project is certainly no lightweight at 93 stories tall. The current proposal calls for a mix a condominiums and hotel rooms with a grand total of 405 residences, 169 keys, 410 parking spaces and a 5,400 square foot ballroom. The project does not include any room for retail. While the size, scale and cost of the project are impressive, the developers have also assembled an all-star design team for Wanda Vista. Studio Gang will act as the lead architect, Gensler will handle the hotel design, bKL Architects will act as the architect of record and landscape architecture outfit OLIN will design the project's outdoor spaces. In describing the lineup for the project, Megellan's Sean Linnane stated that the developers had "pulled together the best of the best." It's true. The last time the city witnessed a team this good was twenty years ago when Phil Jackson assembled the 1995-1996 Chicago Bulls.

So, beyond the numbers and size of the project, what does this tower really mean for Chicago? As proposed, the tower would become the city's third tallest, standing behind the Willis (aka Sears) Tower and the Trump International Hotel and Tower. It's also the first US project from Wanda Group, further indicating that foreign investment no longer views Illinois as a flyover state. It'll bring a number of infrastructure improvements to both Upper and Lower Wacker Drive and improve pedestrian circulation through Lakeshore East. It'll handily trump Aqua in becoming the world's tallest building designed by a female-led architecture firm. It sets a very high bar for developer Related Midwest, who now controls the site of the failed Chicago Spire development. And finally, according to the developers and Alderman Brendan Reilly, the project will become a point of pride for Chicago.

The condo boom and bust of the aughts left a bad taste in the mouths of many Chicagoans (and a deep hole in the ground), but now that the economy and real estate market are recovering, it appears that the Windy City is finally getting an exciting supertall project that feels like it's actually going to happen. However, the process is just really getting started and the project may still change in the coming months. In response to a resident during the Q&A, Alderman Reilly indicated that the meeting was a simply a first look and "not the evening that we approve the project." Continuing on that note, Reilly added, "Not a single downtown project has been approved without substantial changes. I'm proud of the process that engages neighbors and various stakeholders and at the end of the day, everyone is given an opportunity to weigh in."

Do you remember how excited you were when Chicago pulled off two three-peat championships in the '90s? Well, the city is about to do it again with the Obama Library, Lucas Museum and Wanda Vista. And while, Chicago didn't win its bid for the 2016 Summer Olympics, this exciting trio of projects will arguably be more important for the city's development.


[Alderman Brendan Reilly kicking off last night's meeting]


[The project's all-star cast of characters]


[Jeanne Gang discussing the design of the tower trio]

·Wanda Vista [Studio Gang]
·New Details Emerge for Chicago's Gang-Designed Supertall [Curbed Chicago]
·That Studio Gang-Designed Supertall Just Got Way More Real [Curbed Chicago]
·Studio Gang Staying Quiet on New Supertall Tower Plans [Curbed Chicago]
·Is This Wild Supertall the Next Jeanne Gang Tower for Lakeshore East? [Curbed Chicago]

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