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A look at the new skyscrapers that will forever change Chicago’s skyline

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Meet the next generation of supertall buildings

A city skyline with many tall skyscrapers and buildings.
A rendering showing the under construction Vista Tower (left) and the proposed supertall addition to Tribune tower (right).
Rendering courtesy of Golub & Co./CIM Group

The birthplace of the skyscraper, Chicago is reinventing its world-famous skyline as it prepares to a new batch of tall, eye-catching towers.

When the 836-foot-tall One Bennett Park opened in 2019, it was the city’s first 800-footer in nearly a decade. It was soon followed by the 896-foot NEMA Chicago project at the southern edge of Grant Park.

Currently, there are five 800-foot-plus towers under construction in Chicago, including the 1,198-foot-tall Vista Tower in Lakeshore East. More projects are in the works, waiting for city approval or financing.

And with big-name designers like Jahn, Viñoly, Pelli, Stern, Gang, Smith, and Gill on board, the newest generation of Chicago skyscrapers is raising the bar both literally and architecturally.

Here’s a rundown of the projects that will define the Chicago skyline of the future. Under-construction developments are listed first, followed by green-lit and still-pending proposals.

This article was originally published on October 5, 2015, and has been updated to reflect the latest news.


Vista Tower.
Magellan Development

Vista Tower

Status: Under construction

Topping out at 1,198 feet along the Chicago River’s main branch, Vista Tower is impossible to miss. Its angular design from Chicago architecture firm Studio Gang and bKL Architecture is made up of three stacks of geometric “frustums” wrapped in eight different shades of glass, emphasizing its undulating form. The design also includes an unoccupied “blow through” floor to prevent the building from swaying in the wind.

The supertall skyscraper will contain 396 luxury condos, a 192-room five-star hotel, and impressive amenities. Vista Tower will claim the title of the city’s third tallest building and second-highest roof when it opens in late 2020. It is also the tallest building under construction in the United States outside of New York.

A row of very tall skyscrapers.
One Chicago Square.
Goettsch Partners/Hartshorne Plunkard Architecture

One Chicago

Status: Under construction

Replacing a block-sized parking lot across from Chicago’s Holy Name Cathedral at the corner of State Street and Chicago Avenue, this mixed-use project from JDL Development calls for a pair of towers rising 49 and 78 stories atop a shared podium. According to the latest information from the developer, the taller of the two will top out at 969 feet—just shy of the 984-foot official “supertall” designation.

One Chicago (previously known as One Chicago Square) is a design collaboration between Goettsch Partners and Hartshorne Plunkard Architecture. It will contain a Whole Foods store, a Life Time health club, more than 1,000 parking spaces, and a mix of 870 luxury rental and condo units. Construction is expected to wrap up in 2022.

In the foreground is a park with trees and grass. In the background is a city skyline with buildings of varying heights including one tall skyscraper.
1000M.
JAHN

1000M

Status: Under construction

This Helmut Jahn-created condo building at 1000 S. Michigan Avenue will make a sizable impact on Chicago’s southern skyline when it eventually soars 832-feet over Grant Park. The glassy 74-story skyscraper will replace a surface parking lot with 421 luxury condominiums with interiors designed by Kara Mann.

Project developers Time Equities, Oaks Capital, and JK Equities listed a number of luxury units including a South Loop record-shattering $8.1 million penthouse as well as a number of smaller micro-condos. The 1000M team broke ground in late 2019.

Bank of America Tower
Goettsch Partners

Bank of America Tower

Status: Under construction

Located at 110 N. Wacker, this Bank of America-anchored office tower is on its way to soaring 55 stories. Designed by Goettsch Partners and co-developed by the Howard Hughes Corp. and Riverside Investment and Development, it features a 45-foot-wide riverwalk below a serrated western facade designed to maximize water views.

Reaching 815 feet into the air, Bank of America Tower is the tallest new office building to rise in Chicago since the Two Prudential Plaza opened in 1990. The waterfront skyscraper replaces the midcentury low-rise General Growth building and opens in fall 2020.

Salesforce Tower
Rendering by Steelblue

Salesforce Tower

Status: Under construction

The final piece of the three-building Wolf Point development, this 58-story skyscraper will rise 813 feet above the junction of the Chicago River’s north, south, and main branches. Anchored by its namesake tenant, Salesforce comes from architecture firm Pelli Clarke Pelli and developer Hines Interest.

Construction on the office building—which will slot between the Wolf Point West and Wolf Point East apartment towers—started in early 2020. Salesforce Tower is expected to welcome workers in early 2023.

A group of skyscrapers and city buildings of varying heights. It is evening and the sky is dark blue.
BMO Tower.
Goettsch Partners

BMO Tower

Status: Under construction

Another Goettsch and Riverside collaboration, this BMO Financial Group-anchored office tower will rise next to Chicago’s Union Station. The 51-story, 727-foot building includes a 1.5-acre publicly accessible park at its base, situated above a 400-stall garage.

The tower is a key part of Amtrak’s multiphase Union Station master redevelopment plan, replacing an underutilized parking structure. BMO Tower will be the city’s tallest building west of Canal Street when it opens in 2022.

Parcel I.
bKL Architecture

Lakeshore East ‘Parcel I’

Status: Approved

Across the river from 400 N. Lake Shore Drive and east of Vista Tower, this 85-story condo tower is slated for “Parcel I” within Lakeshore East’s alphabetical master plan. Designed by bKL Architecture, the glassy skyscraper will rise 950 feet above its parking podium. The 600-unit tower was approved by the Chicago Plan Commission in October of 2018.

Before work on the “Parcel I” high-rise begins, developers Magellan Group and LendLease will first complete a pair of shorter sibling towers: a 40-story rental building at “Parcel K/L” and a 50-story condo tower at “Parcel J.” The developers expect construction on the three-tower project to take between five and seven years.

Phase one of The 78.
Related Midwest

The 78

Status: Approved

While the final design of the ambitious megaproject known as The 78 will change as tenants are lined up, the multiphase plan allows for skyscrapers as tall as 950 feet—serious height for the Near South Side.

Developed by Related Midwest and masterplanned by architecture firm Skidmore, Owings & Merrill, The 78 will transform a 62-acre vacant site along the south branch of the Chicago River into a mixed-use campus containing 10,000 residential units and 24,000 workers.

The 78 received initial zoning approval from the city and work is already underway on utility and infrastructure improvements including an extension of Wells Street from the South Loop to Chinatown. The first phase of the massive development will include an innovation center and towers climbing 755 feet.

725 W. Randolph
Related Midwest

725 W. Randolph

Status: Approved

While its height of “just” 550 feet puts this tower well out of the running for the city’s tallest, the project headed to 725 W. Randolph Street will nonetheless make a big impact given its location in the mostly mid-rise Fulton Market District. The mixed-use development will be Chicago’s tallest building west of the Kennedy Expressway—eclipsing the 495-foot apartment tower at nearby 727 W. Madison Street.

Designed by Connecticut-based Roger Ferris + Partners and developed by Related Midwest, 725 W. Randolph will include 370 rental apartments, an Equinox fitness club, a 240-room Equinox-branded hotel, and underground parking.

A cityscape with buildings of various heights including several tall skyscrapers.
Tribune Tower East.
Golub & Co./CIM Group

Tribune Tower East

Status: Proposed

At 1,422 feet, this proposed addition to Chicago’s neo-gothic Tribune Tower is gunning for the title of Chicago’s second-tallest building. Slated for the parking lot next to its historic neighbor, Tribune Tower East will contain a 200-key luxury hotel, 439 rental apartments, 125 condominiums, and 430 parking spaces.

The design from hometown architecture firm of Adrian Smith + Gordon Gill is quite slender by Chicago standards—partly due to a protected view corridor requiring landmarked Tribune Tower to remain visible from the Ogden Slip.

Co-developers CIM Group and Golub & Co. presented updated plans for their proposed supertall in November 2019 and will seek city approval in 2020. Meanwhile, the developers are moving ahead with the conversion of the landmark Tribune Tower building into luxury condominiums.

400 N. Lake Shore Drive
SOM

400 N. Lake Shore Drive

Status: Proposed

After years of rumors and speculation, Related Midwest unveiled its design for the site of the failed 2,000-foot Chicago Spire in 2018. The initial plan called for a pair of Skidmore, Owings & Merrill-designed towers rising 1,100 and 850 feet above a low-rise podium.

Alderman Brendan Reilly rejected the proposal and placed the project on hold until the Related addressed “concerns” raised by neighbors. In spring 2020, the developer presented a revised plan rising to the respective heights 875 and 765 feet. Related says its aims to break ground on the first tower in 2021.

A row of tall buildings with a park in front.
The One Central development could extend Chicago’s skyline south along Lake Shore Drive across from Soldier Field.
Landmark Development

One Central

Status: Conceptual plan

The 34-acre proposal known as One Central would cap the Metra tracks west of Soldier Field with a 50-foot-tall deck topped by multiple skyscrapers, open space, and a landscaped pedestrian bridge connecting Chicago’s South Loop to the lakefront.

The mixed-use, transit-oriented campus from Wisconsin-based Landmark Development would also include a transportation hub serving Metra, CTA, and Amtrak trains and a proposed “Chi-Line” circulator utilizing the sunken busway between Millennium Park and McCormick Place.

Although still vague and lacking specific building heights and densities, the plan offered conceptual renderings showing ten placeholder skyscrapers with some appearing to tower above the 896-foot-tall NEMA project to the north. The plan still needs city approval and is likely to evolve before then.

A tall building towers above a row of high-rises overlooking a park.
A conceptual plan showing a supertall tower rising at the site of the Loop’s Thompson Center.
Adrian Smith + Gordon Gill

Thompson Center redevelopment

Status: Conceptual plan

In 2017, then-Illinois Governor Bruce Rauner presented rendering of a 1,700-foot-tall tower to replace the Thompson Center in the Chicago Loop. Although the Adrian Smith + Gordon Gill design was nothing more than a conceptual vision showing what could rise at the block-sized parcel, the redevelopment of the Thompson Center is inching forward now that current Governor J.B. Pritzker is advancing a plan to sell the state-owned property.

It’s unclear what is planned for the 17-story blue and salmon-colored postmodern building after it sells. Preservations are hoping to save the run-down and costly-to-maintain structure. Helmut Jahn, the Thompson Center’s original architect, presented his own vision for the site which preserves much of the existing atrium and adds a slender 110-story skyscraper to the site’s southwest corner.

Credit for this story idea and headline goes to former Curbed Chicago editor AJ LaTrace.