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Five Chicago architecture and development stories to watch in 2017

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From the Obama Library to downtown’s apartment boom, here are the stories Chicagoans will be reading next year

Image via Flickr Creative Commons/Craig

While Chicago experienced more than its fair share of exciting architecture and real estate news in 2016, the coming year looks set to include even more high-profile reveals, ground-breakings, and neighborhood transformations. Here are some of the stories Chicagoans can look to following in 2017.

Obama Foundation to release library design

↑ In the planning phase since early 2014, Jackson Park’s upcoming Obama Presidential Center will certainly be a story to watch in 2017. According to the Obama Foundation’s online timeline, the design and programming of the South Side institution is scheduled to be released to the public some time after the 44th President of the United States leaves office later next month. The Obamas made the announcement in June that Tod Williams Billie Tsien Architects would lead the library’s design.

So far, the foundation and its selected architect have remained mum on the look and layout of the building. According to Obamas, TWBTA was chosen for their creative ideas to help engage the surrounding community. "This has been a transformative presidency and we will work to make a Center that embodies and expands the Obamas' vision," said TWBTA in a statement this summer. That precise vision (and its architectural embodiment) will undoubtedly be one of 2017’s most highly anticipated revelations.

Plans for Chicago Spire Site, vacant 62-acre riverfront parcel

Flickr Creative Commons/Heartland Explorer

↑ What happens when a prominent developer with a solid track record acquires the site of the failed 2000-foot Chicago Spire as well as 62 acres of prime riverfront real estate on the city’s South Side? This question will hopefully be answered in 2017 when Related Midwest pops the lid on its plans to redevelop the now infamous gaping hole at 400 N. Lake Shore Drive and the massive vacant parcel slotted between Chicago’s South Loop and Chinatown.

According to an earlier report, Related is preparing to publicly present preliminary plans for the two mega-projects some time in 2017. With an iconic gateway to the Chicago River and an entirely new neighborhood both potentially on the table, it wouldn’t be surprising to see Related Midwest bring in some world-renown architectural talent.

Starchitects leaving their marks on the Chicago skyline


↑ The projects mentioned above aren’t the only cases of famous “starchitects” potentially bringing high profile projects to the Windy City in the coming year. Next spring should see Jeanne Gang’s supertall Vista Tower begin its 1,186-foot vertical climb skyward as well as César Pelli’s 660-foot apartment tower kick-off foundation work at the confluence of the Chicago River’s three branches at Wolf Point. Meanwhile, Robert A.M. Stern’s One Bennett Park will make its imposing presence further known in Streetervile.

From an architectural standpoint, 2017 could be an especially exciting time for Chicago’s South Loop. The downtown neighborhood is poised to see construction commence on a 76-story skyscraper from architect Rafael Viñoly in the coming weeks. With Helmut Jahn’s glassy 836-foot building at 1000 S. Michigan Avenue on deck, another high-profile ground-breaking very well may be in the cards in 2017. Will some of these projects ever rise over the city’s skyline? We’ll have to wait and see how the rental and condo market continue to perform over the next year.

Evolving north and near south entertainment districts

Hotel Zachary

↑ While Wrigleyville and McCormick place have traditionally acted as magnets for visitors during Cubs games and large conventions, both spots are in the midst of major transformations to become destinations in their own rights. New attractions such as McCormick’s upcoming Wintrust Arena sports/performance venue and Wrigleyville’s massive Addison+Clark development with bowling alleys and a multiplex cinema will cast a broader net to draw both residents and tourists alike.

These new entertainment options will be further supplemented by new retail, dining, and lodging options. Work continues on the Hotel Zachary and the boutique Holiday Jones near the Friendly Confines. Meanwhile, Chicago’s newly-branded ”McCormick Square” is in the process of adding the 1,206-room Marriott Marquis hotel and a newly green-lit three-flag hotel project from McHugh. While not all of these developments may open for business in 2017, the look and feel of both districts will evolve dramatically.

Will the downtown rental market cool down?

Image via Flickr Creative Commons/ti_pau

↑ 2016 may have seen a record 3,830 new apartments delivered to downtown Chicago, but 2017 is set to further push the edge of the envelope with no less than 4,500 additional rental units expected to come online in the next 12 months. With so many apartments packing the pipeline and rents creeping ever higher, the next couple of years will be especially interesting as supply is likely to outpace demand.

Though this trend hardly means the proverbial sky is falling, many real estate experts anticipate at least some degree of market correction. The situation, while disconcerting for johnny-come-lately apartment builders, could potentially see downtown’s soaring rents reigned-in and perhaps even some energy shifted to Chicago’s slow-to-rebound new condo market.