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Dense 627-Unit Proposal for West Loop Unveiled to Community

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It is likely that the developer will go back to the drawing board and return with an updated plan

A new proposal for a dense development in the West Loop was introduced to residents last night in a packed room at the Merit School of Music. The proposal comes from the John Buck Company, a group that has recently opened a new apartment tower on Michigan Avenue and is building a new office tower in the Loop that will become the permanent home of CNA Financial. The plan, which will redevelop the former H2O Plus facility, calls for a 600,000-square-foot development that includes a pair of towers—a 17-story tower connected to a 15-story one—along with a two-story parking podium and row of duplex homes. Because of the sheer size of the project, the development will occupy an entire city block. The developer is seeking a zoning change to deliver a total of 627 residences, 10,000-square-feet of retail space, and nearly 300 parking spaces.

In terms of design, the development will feature a brick and glass construction, something that is not only common for the area, but an aesthetic that is a part of the area’s identity. The design comes from GREC Architects, a local firm that has worked on other high-rise projects like the Xavier apartments near Cabrini-Green and the Loop’s Hilton Garden Inn. According to reps with the John Buck Company, the hope was to achieve "a warehouse feeling" with the design. And while the towers are hard to miss, the developer and GREC attempted to break up the massing by staggering the height and shape of the towers. The development will also feature a large amount of green roof space.

The proposal presented last night was not the first design however. According to the developer, the proposal introduced last night was a refinement of an original plan that was presented to members of various West Loop community groups. Some of the key changes that had been made to the plan were the reduction in the size of the parking podium from three stories to two, the elimination of six curb cuts, and the increase of green space and the widening of the sidewalks.

Despite the evolution of the proposal and the changes made to it, there was still an overwhelming reaction against the density and height of the towers from residents. Several attendees spoke to scale of the project and how much larger this particular proposal was compared to others in the area. One audience member even suggested to others to keep proposals like this one in mind when heading to the polls for the next aldermanic election, prompting Alderman Walter Burnett, Jr. (27th) to lash back, "Why don't I just pass the development without having the meeting. Why are you making threats?"

However, the plan presented last night is not expected to be the final proposal. It is likely that the developer will return to the community with an updated and scaled-down version of the plan.