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Downtown alderman rejects three skyscrapers planned for Lakeshore East

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The plan to redevelop Parcels I, J, K and L will not move forward as proposed, says Alderman Brendan Reilly

bKL Architecture

An ambitious development that would fill-in the last major piece of downtown Chicago’s multi-phase Lakeshore East neighborhood with three new high-rises will not move forward as presented this summer. The news comes via 42nd Ward Alderman and Vice Mayor Brendan Reilly who has decided to nix the plan after “reviewing substantial neighborhood feedback.”


The vacant site in question consists of four parcels known by the letter designations "I, J, K & L" and was originally approved to support four buildings. The updated plan presented this summer by developers Magellan Group and Lendlease proposed consolidating the site’s zoning into three buildings featuring a combined 1,400 residential dwelling units and 300 hotel rooms.

Designed by Chicago’s bKL Architecture, the most dramatic of the three towers was the 80-story, 875-foot tower slated for Site I on the northeastern corner of the parcel. It would have been flanked by a pair of shorter bKL-designed towers rising to the respective heights of 40 and 50 stories. The trio would have been connected by 134,340 square feet of green space sporting a spiraling walkway and staircase connecting Lakeshore East to Chicago’s lakefront.

According to Reilly’s email, the majority of issues raised by nearby residents focused on the park space, the site’s pedestrian access, and associated security issues. Essentially only one item cited by the alderman actually relates to the towers themselves—a desire for greater, “more consistent” separation between the proposed skyscrapers and existing residential buildings.

The 80-story tower proposed for Site I featured a glassy design that grew wider as it climbed.
bKL Architecture

A list of issues that Reilly says the proposal must resolve reads as follows:

* Provide more usable, contiguous & active open green space that will serve as a real public benefit to the surrounding neighborhood;

* Eliminate the grand staircase & associated zigzag pedestrian path and replace it with a more subtle, meandering path - to allow for the addition of usable green space & reduction of hardscape/pedestrian infrastructure;

* Relocate the proposed upper-level Harbor Drive pedestrian access point to the new open green space to improve sight-lines: moving it further north on Harbor & away from the Parkshore's garage and driveway egress;

* Address security concerns (especially at the lower access road level) by proposing a staffed guard station on the lower level to monitor pedestrian traffic and activity - as well as regular security patrols throughout the site;

* Better define solutions ensuring there are no conflicts between garage access, loading and the proposed pedestrian and bicycle traffic that would occur at the lower level access road that leads toward the Lakefront;

* Install fencing between the lower Lake Shore Drive public right-of-way and the property line of sites "I, J, K & L" - while creating one centralized access portal between Magellan site & Lakefront (similar to the required improvements Wanda Vista will make to Riverwalk access at Field Drive);

* Properly secure this lower-level Lakefront access portal with the installation of way-finding signage, improved lighting and surveillance cameras that can tie-in to the City's OEMC security camera network; and

* Reassess the positioning of towers on the podium and make a greater effort to ensure distances between newly proposed towers and existing buildings are more consistent with setbacks that currently govern the site.

While the decision represents a major setback for the development team, the aforementioned issues can be addressed without significantly altering the scope of project. Though voiced at July’s meeting, concerns focused on height, density, and blocked views were not explicitly listed among the alderman’s grievances. It’s a safe bet, however, to assume that his office received plenty of comments along those lines in the months since the presentation.

It’s also worth noting that today’s announcement makes no mention of the plan for Lakeshore East’s Site O. Presented at the same meeting as the plan for Sites I, J, K and L, the proposal called for a 650-foot-tall tower to be wedged into a vacant lot between Aqua and the Blue Cross Blue Shield Tower. Also penned by bKL, the mixed-use ‘O’ building would feature 643 residential units, two hotels, 191 parking spaces, and roughly 14,000 square feet of retail space.

An overview of Lake Shore East showing the proposed locations of Sites O, I, J, K, and L.
Magellan Group/Lendlease
A rendering of the tower proposed for Site O.
bKL Architecture