Wednesday night local developer Sterling Bay presented its plans to bring four new high-rise buildings to the northern edge of Chicago’s West Loop neighborhood at a meeting hosted by Alderman Walter Burnett, Jr. and the West Loop Community Organization.
The Green Street Corridor is already home to some of the West Loop’s best known restaurants and Chicago’s Soho House hotel and club. Sterling Bay aims to extend the action north by delivering a combined 1.7 million square feet of office space and 1000 parking spaces across its four new projects.
The developments will also provide a number of traffic management improvements to the immediate area as well as pay nearly $16 million to Chicago’s Neighborhood Opportunity bonus system. The plans were submitted as three Planned Development zoning applications and will require city approval to move forward.
Here’s a rundown of what the developer presented:
333 N. Green
Likely to be the first building to break ground, 333 N. Green—also known as Gr333n—is perhaps most architecturally interesting due to its unique trapezoidal site and a 16-foot grade change between Halsted and Green.
The 19-story Gensler-designed office tower (see top image) will feature multiple ground floor retail bays, tenant amenities on the 6th and 19th floors, and landscaped steps to address the difference in street levels. Four levels of parking containing 326 spaces will be screened behind a so-called kinetic wall system that will gently undulate in the wind.
Sterling Bay has already signed WPP as a tenant in the unbuilt office building. The London-based advertising firm has committed to 253,000 square feet of space and hopes to move in by early 2020. Provided approvals go as planned, groundbreaking could take place later this year.
330 N. Green
Sterling Bay purchased the parking lot at 333 N. Green along with the existing Coyne College building across the street at 330 N. Green for a reported $25 million. Here, the developer plans a 20-story office building designed by Skidmore, Owings & Merrill.
The glass-heavy architectural design features three retail spaces and is divided into three components that reduce in the number of vertical columns as they rise. The most eye-catching feature is the building’s so-called porch—a south-facing outdoor amenity space for tenants.
A 205-car parking garage will be accessed from Peoria Street, which dead-ends at the site. To accommodate the expected surge in trips via ride-hailing companies like Lyft and Uber, 330 N. Green also includes a dedicated drop-off area with the property line front Wayman.
360 N. Green
The first major Fulton Market office project to jump north of the Metra track, 360 N. Green would be a 21-story office tower. Also designed by Gensler, the building features two distinct facades: one primarily of glass, the other more industrial with steel beams and cross-bracing.
The currently vacant lot has an usual shape thanks to a thin spur extending westward along the rail tracks. The developer will landscape this narrow stretch as a linear pocket park with an east-west pedestrian pathway. The move could provide a vital connection for office workers should a rumored Fulton Market Metra stop ever materialize.
345 N. Morgan
Sporting a metal facade punctuated by only a few openings, the seven-story, 132-foot development at 345 N. Morgan Street is envisioned as a combination parking garage and movie theater complex. The Gensler-designed building would have retail at ground level topped by roughly 200 parking spaces, six dine-in cinema screens on its sixth floor, and five screens on the seventh.
Located next to the Ace Hotel, the site is currently home to a low rise commercial building that was once home to Pittsburgh Paints and more recently showcased some of Skidmore, Owings & Merrill’s historic skyscraper models as part of the Chicago Architecture Biennial.
In a refreshing change of pace, most of the public comments at the meeting focused on design aspects rather than blank complaints regarding excessive height, density, and traffic congestion.
Though Sterling Bay cited a number of points from the recently adopted West Loop Design Guidelines in its presentation, some took issue with the somewhat uniform massing of the proposals, arguing that it created a blocky 20-story plateau. The developer said it was open to exploring other solutions.
One resident found the “sculptural” design of the Morgan Street parking garage and cinema to be completely at odds with its surroundings compared to other, more contextual new developments in the area. Another asked what the developer would do if there was no demand for so many parking spaces or cinema screens after it was built.
A Sterling Bay representative stated that the company believes the projects are in line with market trends. The buildings are also designed with future adaptation in mind should demand for parking dramatically drop, as predicted by some urban planners.
Why so much office? Why now?
As the Fulton Market’s largest office builders, Sterling Bay has largely been ahead of the curve when it comes to client needs. The firm was behind Google’s Chicago offices at 1K Fulton and recently completed the massive ‘Fulton West’ development at 1330 W. Fulton. It is also putting the finishing touches on the new McDonald’s corporate HQ at 110 N. Carpenter and is working on a 12-story office project at 210 N. Carpenter.
The sudden influx of proposals from Sterling Bay and other developers is in part a strategic move to get pieces in place should Amazon choose Fulton Market for its HQ2 campus. The neighborhood was one of ten sites comprising Chicago’s official bid for the headquarters.
Beyond Amazon, it’s been reported that Google is considering Chicago for an office deal worth as many as 5,000 jobs. Apple is also shopping sites for a new 20,000-person facility. It can be assumed that other, more publicity-shy companies are continuing to eye the hot West Loop for possible relocations as well.
- Developer plans three West Loop office towers, movie theater [Curbed Chicago]
- Mapping the West Loop development boom [Curbed Chicago]
- West Loop archive [Curbed Chicago]