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Plan for 725-foot River North skyscraper revealed

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The 60-story project will feature a mix of condos, time-shares, hotel rooms, and retail

Jay Koziarz/Curbed Chicago

Skidmore Owings & Merrill (SOM), the architecture firm behind Chicago’s John Hancock Center and Willis (Sears) Tower, is looking to once again leave its mark on the Windy City skyline with a new 60-story tower in River North. Last night, at a public presentation hosted by 42nd Ward Alderman Brendan Reilly and the River North Residents Association (RNRA), a team composed of Symmetry Development, Fordham Real Estate, and SOM revealed their plans for the mixed-use skyscraper.

The project is officially named The Carillon—a word that refers to an instrument of bells, usually installed in towers. Given the proposed building’s unusual, curving architectural crown and its location near Holy Name Cathedral, perhaps the choice is more than just coincidence.

The 725-foot proposal would contain 216 hotel rooms, 120 hotel timeshare units, 246 luxury condominiums, 30,000 square feet of retail space, and parking for 325 vehicles. Starting with base DX-12 designation, the group is seeking 6.4 points of additional Floor Area Ratio (FAR) by paying a whopping $8 million into Chicago’s Neighborhood Opportunity Fund.

Jay Koziarz

For less shadows and fewer blocked views, SOM opted for a taller building with a relatively narrow footprint. The tower portion wraps a glass facade behind an elegant lattice of steel, precast, and glass fiber reinforced concrete columns on its north and south sides. The effect is both evocative of the Hancock’s masculine cross-bracing and the airy, uplifting look of SOM’s Cadet Chapel at the U.S. Air Force Academy. The geometry of the base also gives off a noticeable Minoru Yamasaki vibe.

The building’s low-rise parking podium, however, looks very River North. Less remarkable architecturally, this segment seems awkwardly tacked-on to the rest of the tower. Thankfully, the first two levels of the podium will be activated with retail and lobby use.

The 37,500-square-foot development site covers the legal addresses of 739 N. Wabash, 42-48 E. Superior, and 730-740 N. Rush Street. While it would replace a cluster of 19th century Italianate and Victorian buildings along superior, the majority of the existing Giordano's building on the corner of Rush would remain.

The Alderman explained that he personally reached out to the city’s Commission on Landmarks regarding the older orange-rated structures that the development would replace. Though these buildings could qualify for protection as part of a so-called character district, no such district currently exists in River North. On their own, the properties do not meet the criteria for landmarking according to the city.

“These are all really wonderful buildings and they could make part of a landmark district,” said Ward Miller of Preservation Chicago. “You could call it the Cathedral district if you’d like. You could call it McCormickville—or ‘Towertown.’ These buildings are part of the McCormick family idea to settle the north side of the river before and after the Great Fire of 1871.”

Jay Koziarz
Jay Koziarz

While a few neighbors echoed Miller’s call to preserve the historic buildings or at least find a way to integrate the facades—or even cantilever the mass of the tower overhead—the majority of the public commentary revolved around traffic congestion. Though the plans call for a number of circulation improvements such as placing vehicular access off of a widened rear alley and eliminating an over-crowded taxi stand on Superior, the naysayers expressed a unanimous opinion that the project would exacerbate preexisting congestion issues.

According to Alderman Reilly, last night’s meeting was just the first step in a greater public engagement and comment period. Chicago’s Vice Mayor reminded his constituents that given the site’s underlying zoning, it’s not inconceivable that developers could pursue an as-of-right project—or even two separate towers—without the public engagement or municipal negotiation afforded by the Plan Development (PD) process.

An earlier, alternate plan that would have seen a pair tower constructed on the site.
Jay Koziarz

So far, the developers have yet to file their zoning application with the city of Chicago. If and when it is fully approved and permitted, the construction phase is estimated to last roughly 33 months following one month of demolition. The Carillon is expected to create 1000 temporary construction jobs, 372 permanent positions, and generate a considerable amount of local tax revenue—though the development team did not have that exact number handy at last night’s presentation.

Jay Koziarz
Jay Koziarz
Jay Koziarz
Jay Koziarz
Jay Koziarz
Jay Koziarz
Jay Koziarz
Jay Koziarz