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620-foot Michigan Avenue skyscraper inches its way towards groundbreaking

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The planned 56-story Essex Inn tower is working through Chicago’s permit review process

Approved by Chicago’s Plan Commission earlier this year, the glassy 620-foot tower slated to replace the five-story garage structure attached to the landmarked Essex Inn at 800 S. Michigan is steadily creeping towards construction. The project—by LondonHouse developer Oxford Capital and Hartshorne Plunkard Architecture—is set to contain 479 residential units, ground-floor retail, and four levels of parking screened by active use facing Michigan Avenue, directly across from Grant Park. It is currently navigating the city’s permitting process.

It’s unclear how quickly the 56-story tower will be granted the municipal go-ahead, especially with a potential snafu involving the Chicago Commission on Landmarks. The Commission has a great deal of control of the project given its location in the amended Historic Michigan Boulevard District and was allegedly the driving force behind a substantial redesign of the building before it went to Plan Commission in May. According to the Department of Building’s website, the group appears to have pumped the brakes on things, recently denying the project’s demolition permit.

The skyscraper at 800 S. Michigan did appear on the Commission’s October agenda before the group met earlier this month. The South Loop project was even recommended for approval by the permit review committee’s staff, provided the project satisfied several previously outlined criteria. For instance, the “size, scale, and siting” of the building had to be consistent with what was shown earlier. With the final minutes from that meeting yet to be published on the Chicago Commission on Landmarks website, it’s unclear why exactly the permit review was turned down.

We spoke with Chicago’s Department of Planning and Development regarding Landmark’s reported denial and will update this story as soon as more information comes to light. In the meantime, enjoy these clear renderings of 800 S. Michigan and its impressive elevated park-facing winter garden and pool.

Update: It appears Landmarks doesn’t seem have an issue with the development itself, but rather is just being thorough regarding the issuance of the demolition permit for the parking garage. The delay isn’t expected to last much longer.