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High-tech wooden office building planned for Goose Island would be nation’s largest

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The proposed six-story development would build off the success of a similar project in Minneapolis


Chicago’s Goose Island may soon become the site of the largest modern all-timber office building in the country. Houston-based commercial real estate developer Hines is planning a six-story, 270,000-square-foot “mass timber” structure at 1017 W. Division Street—ironically the former site of the Big Bay Lumber Yard.


While the development would be the first such project for the Windy City, Hines recently completed a smaller, 220,000-square foot wooden office building in Minneapolis. It was designed by Vancouver-based Michael Green Architecture and the local office of DLR Group and is fully leased.

Like its Minneapolis project, Hines is looking to the brand the Chicago example as ‘T3’ which stands for timber, technology, and transit. The developer is also contemplating a similar wooden office structure in Atlanta and is eying an expansion to other markets.

First reported in Crain’s Chicago Business in February, new details and renderings of Hines’ plan recently came to light in an article by the Chicago Tribune. While the project would still need city approval, a sweeping re-zone of the North Branch Corridor has cleared a path for denser, non-industrial projects in the area.

Perkins + Will

Despite Chicago’s not-so-“Great” history when it comes to big fires, designers of modern mass timber buildings believe the material is just as safe as traditional steel and concrete construction. Instead of burning, mass timber beams would simply “char.” The building process is quicker and more environmentally friendly—wood is a renewable resource after all—than traditional methods.

Goose Island’s T3 isn’t the only Windy City timber project on the drawing board. Last fall, Cambridge University, architecture firm Perkins + Will, and structural engineers Thornton Tomasetti published an ambitious design study for an 80-story timber skyscraper along the Chicago River’s South Branch.

Dubbed River Beech Tower, the wooden high-rise concept continues to evolve and could preview a future where wood becomes the preferred, carbon footprint negative construct material.

“I don’t think there’s a height limit,” Andy Tsay Jacobs, director of the Building Technology Lab at Perkins + Will, told Curbed yesterday. “The answer is yes, wood can go 80 stories, no problem. The issues are less on the technical side than on the code side.”