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A closer look at the second GEMS Academy building headed to Lakeshore East

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The glassy private school at 355 E. Wacker Drive hopes to open late next year

bKL Architecture

As work ramps up on the long-discussed second phase of the GEMS World Academy in Lakeshore East, updated images from bKL Architecture show how the educational building has evolved since 2014. The GEMS World Academy Middle-Upper School will now rise 13 stories compared to the 16 shown in earlier renderings.

A realignment of the building, set back from Wacker, creates an open space to bring more light to the tower levels. This gap will be bridged by stairs and an ADA-accessible ramp. The redesign also ditches a large insert balcony for a new landscaped rooftop space looking out over the Chicago River and Navy Pier.

Renderings from 2014 [left] and 2018 [right].
bKL Achitecture

New interior renderings also show off the communal spaces as well as educational amenities including a 500-seat auditorium, indoor gymnasium, two-story library, and digital theater and media workshop.

The development is expected to accommodate 1,440 students in grades 8 through 12, absorbing some of the older students from the existing GEMS K-9 Lower School at nearby 350 E. South Water Street. The combined two-building campus will ultimately serve up to 2,100 students. With middle school tuition currently running $34,000 a year, it’s safe to assume that a diploma from GEMS Upper School won’t come cheap.

Slated for a the narrow site between The Coast apartment development and the under-construction supertall Vista Tower, the building has under construction since mid-2017. A recent construction permit allowing crews to start erecting the school’s superstructure from Lower Wacker Drive to Upper Wacker Drive was issued Wednesday.

According to the private academy’s website, occupancy is expected in the winter of 2019. In the meantime, construction fans can watch the action unfold live on the project’s handy real-time webcam.

bKL Architecture
bKL Architecture
bKL Architecture
bKL Architecture
bKL Architecture
bKL Architecture
bKL Architecture
bKL Architecture