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Federal review could hold up planned Wacker Drive skyscraper

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The Army Corps of Engineers will consider the plan’s “adverse effects” on the historic General Growth Building

Designed by architecture firm Graham, Anderson, Probst and White in 1958, the General Growth Building was found to meet the criteria for inclusion on the National Register of Historic Places.

After receiving full approval from the City of Chicago earlier this year, an 800-foot riverfront office tower will need the blessing of the federal government’s U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to be realized. The process recently became more complicated once it was determined that the existing 1958 General Growth Building (formerly the Morton Salt Building) at 110 N. Wacker Drive is historically significant.

A rendering of the new tower proposed for 110 N. Wacker Drive.
Goettsch Partners

While not a Chicago landmark, the low-rise office building was found to meet the architectural criteria for inclusion on the National Register of Historic Places, thus triggering what is known as a Section 106 Historic Property Review. An important tool in influencing federal decisions regarding historic properties, the process provides local stakeholders an opportunity to weigh-in on measures deemed to have an “adverse effect.”

In the case of the new office tower at 110 N. Wacker, the effect is undeniably adverse since it entails the full demolition of the existing structure. Residents living in close proximity to the site were mailed a notification of the federal review process and will have until December 14th to comment. Feedback will inform the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ decision to sign-off on a federal permit required for the new development’s stormwater outfall structure that would flow into the Chicago River.

With Bank of America committed to 500,000 square feet of space in the proposed skyscraper and the developer looking to begin work as soon as January, the federal Section 106 Review is coming very late in the game. With that being said, engaging in open dialogues—especially in the case of architectural preservation—is never a bad idea.

The USACE’s full Section 106 report can be read here.

A notice mailed to nearby property owners.