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A look at twelve projects under construction in Chicago’s South Loop

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The booming South Loop is poised to deliver thousands of new apartments and hotel rooms

All photos by Harry Carmichael

From Rafael Viñoly’s dramatic tower anchoring the south edge of Grant Park to the new hotels and event spaces headed to the newly named ‘McCormick Square’ entertainment district, Chicago’s South Loop is abuzz with construction activity. Taking advantage of the mild winter, many crews are ahead of schedule adding thousands of new apartment units to the area. The South Loop is showing little sign of slowing down as the first phase of the massive Riverline project continues to rise and a major condo project at 1000 S. Michigan Avenue waits patiently in the wings.

Here’s a quick look at twelve of the South Loop’s biggest projects currently under construction:

↑ One Grant Park

The undisputed king of the South Loop’s current high-rise boom, One Grant Park will rise over 800 feet into the air. Designed by Rafael Viñoly Architects, the 76-story building at the corner of Roosevelt and Indiana broke ground in early 2017. With foundation work completed, the project has installed its tower crane and the first of its climbing formwork. The skyscraper will ultimately deliver 792 rental apartments. A second, taller twin tower is planned to the immediate west.

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↑ Essex on the Park

After landing its first construction permit last month, the 56-story Essex on the Park tower at 808 S. Michigan Avenue continues to dig downward as crews work to install the building’s underground foundation caissons. The glassy 479-unit apartment tower designed by Hartshorne Plunkard Architecture will eventually connect to the existing Essex Inn, which will be rehabbed, expanded from 254 to 271 guest rooms, and rebranded as the ‘Essex Hotel.’ The project expects to be completed in 2019.

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↑ 1326 S. Michigan

Several blocks south of Essex, another glassy apartment high-rise is just getting started at 1326 S. Michigan. While it may not look like much now, the friction piles being installed 85 feet into the earth will go on to support a 47-story, 500-unit tower designed by Solomon Cordwell Buenz (SCB). Replacing a parking lot, the development received a construction permit from the city in April and recently broke ground.

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↑ 1136 S. Wabash

Meanwhile, a second SCB-designed South Loop tower is already climbing skyward at 1136 S. Wabash near the Roosevelt Red Line station. The 26-story building will contain 320 rental apartments, 141 garage spaces, and a rooftop pool deck. With the structurally complicated ramps of its parking podium now complete, the tower is rising quickly now. Brackets that will hold the building’s climbing screens have been installed on edges of the upper slab floors. The project at 1136 S. Wabash is expected to be ready for residents some time next year.

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↑ 1101 S. Wabash

The same block of Wabash will also be the new home of an upcoming 29-story hotel development. Designed by local architect Lothan Van Hook DeStefano, the project will feature a 196-room Homewood Hilton, a separate 85-room extended stay hotel, ground floor retail space, and garage parking for 57 vehicles. The project recently installed its tower crane and is digging a hole that will soon contain the tower’s concrete foundation mat.

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↑ 30 E. Balbo

Located at the corner of Wabash and Balbo, this 16-story residential building from Solomon Cordwell Buenz is basically complete as far as exterior construction is concerned. Dubbed ‘30 East Apartments,’ the project contains 134 rental units targeted at students and young professionals, a full suite of indoor/outdoor amenities, and new ground level retail space. It should soon start welcoming its first tenants.

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↑ 1411 S. Michigan

Designed by architecture firm Boarman Kroos Vogel Group (BKV), the mixed-use development headed to 1411 S. Michigan Avenue will deliver 199 rental units and 40,000 square feet of commercial space to be anchored by an outpatient facility from Rush University Medical Center. Already a few floors above street level, the 15-story project will also feature interior parking for 141 vehicles and tenant amenities such as a yoga studio, basketball court, and outdoor swimming pool.

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↑ Alta Roosevelt

Closer to the Chicago River, the 33-story high-rise at 801 S. Financial continues its climb. Known officially as Alta Roosevelt, the 496-unit rental project comes from architect Pappageorge Haymes Partners. A portion of the development’s 348 parking spaces will be located below grade with the rest occupying a relatively small three-story podium topped by a pool and amenity deck.

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↑ Ancora at Riverline

Currently in the shadow of the neighboring Alta Roosevelt project, the first phase of the massive ‘Riverline’ development is going vertical. Known as Ancora, the 28-story apartment tower designed by Perkins+Will is the first of eight waterfront buildings that will occupy the sprawling 14-acre vacant site bounded by Harrison, Roosevelt, Wells, and the Chicago River. When completed, Ancora will contain 452 apartment units, an amenity deck, and a 230-vehicle parking garage.

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↑ Marriott Marquis

The largest Chicago hotel project in years, the recently topped-off Marriott Marquis tower at McCormick Place will contain 1,205 guest rooms, event space, and a rooftop bar. Credit for the 39-story building’s design is somewhat complicated with project’s initial layout coming from Gensler and Anderson/Miller. The design-build team was then led by Clark Construction in collaboration with Goettsch Partners and Simeone Deary Design Group. The blue glass-clad tower will open later this year.

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↑ Wintrust Arena

Connected to the adjacent Marriott project via skybridge is a new event center known as Wintrust Arena. The 10,387-seat venue comes from Pelli Clarke Pelli Architects and features an interesting curving “ravioli-shaped” roofline—though the effect is pretty much lost at street level. Expected to host between 50 and 70 events, concerts, and conventions a year, the arena will also be the future home of DePaul University’s basketball program.

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↑ 123 E. Cermak

The Mariott Marquis isn’t the only new hotel heading to McCormick Place as crews continue to work on the 22-story development at 123 E. Cermak. Slated to contain a trio of hotels—a Hampton Inn, Home2 Suites, and Hilton Garden Inn—the project will offer a combined 466 guest rooms and a sizable retail component. Developer/general contractor McHugh tapped Antunovich Associates to design the complex.

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