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Aon observatory, Uptown Theatre rehab among projects poised for city key vote

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The Plan Commission’s December agenda looks anything but boring

The “Sky Summit” ride would dangle tourists over the edge of the Aon Center’s roof.
601W Companies

While December is historically a slow time when it comes to city officials to approve major zoning changes, this month’s meeting of the Chicago Plan Commission is set to consider a number of notable developments. The draft agenda includes the rehabilitation of two historic theaters, the construction of hundreds more rental apartments, and plans to create a public observation deck atop downtown’s Aon Center.

Here’s quick a look at the high-profile projects headed before city commissioners for approval later this month:

The apartments proposed next to the Congress Theatre will have zero parking.
Woodhouse Tinucci Architects

Congress Theatre rehab and apartments

This long-discussed rehab of Logan Square’s Congress Theatre will restore and reopen the landmarked venue at 2135 N. Milwaukee Avenue. The historic 1926 building will add 14 residential units and 50 hotel rooms to its upper floors. Developer New Congress LLC will also seek zoning approval for a new seven-story, 72-unit transit-oriented rental building slated for a parking lot across the street. The theater overhaul and new apartments both come from Chicago design firm Woodhouse Tinucci Architects.

The Uptown Theatre overhaul will restore the landmarked building’s classic signage.
Lamar Johnson Collaborative

Uptown Theatre renovation

If the Congress rehab wasn’t enough good news for fans of Chicago’s historic movie palaces, the Plan Commission will also vote on a proposal to bring the 93-year-old Uptown Theatre back to its original grandeur. Led by partners Jam Productions and Farpoint Development and designed by local architectural firm Lamar Johnson Collaborative, the ambitious effort will restore the massive Spanish Baroque Revival-style building at 4816 N. Broadway and increase its capacity to 5,800 people.

A rendering of 808 N. Wells Street.
Hartshorne Plunkard Architecture

808 N. Wells apartments

In River North, developer AMLI Residential will seek a zoning change to build a 17-story apartment building at the northwest corner of Chicago Avenue and Wells Street at the former site of a stalled condo project. Designed by Hartshorne Plunkard Architecture (HPA), the new plan would include 6,300 square feet of ground floor commercial space topped by 318 compact rental units. The transit-oriented development (TOD) would provide parking for 318 bicycles and mere 16 cars.

Phase 3 elevation drawings from Old Town Park’s zoning application.
Chicago City Clerk

Old Town Park phase 3

Further north along Wells, more apartments are looking to join the multiphase redevelopment of the Atrium Village site known as Old Town Park. Developer Onni Group is seeking zoning for the project’s third high-rise tower—a 41-story building with 456 rental units, office space, retail, and parking for 193 vehicles. The proposed HPA-designed building would rise 447 feet, peeking above the 426-foot Old Town Park phase 2 tower which is currently under construction to the immediate east.

The proposed observatory would remove columns from the tower’s upper levels to provide better outward views.
Solomon Cordwell Buenz

Aon Center observation deck

The commissioners are also expected to vote on a zoning change supporting the addition of a 1,185-foot-tall exterior elevator, observation deck, rooftop thrill ride, and ground-level entrance pavilion to Chicago’s Aon Center at 200 E. Randolph Street. Designed by Chicago-based Solomon Cordwell Buenz, the $185 million project aims to transform the 1970 office building into the city’s next hot tourist destination—competing directly with the Willis Tower’s Skydeck and the 360 Chicago observatory atop the former Hancock Center.