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New ivy-covered apartments looks to replace Wabash Avenue parking lot

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The latest proposal for the downtown site features 81 rental units, retail space, and zero parking places

42nd Ward/HPA

Updated renderings of a seven-story development slated for the parking lot at 171 N. Wabash Avenue in the heart of Chicago’s Loop were revealed Friday in an email to downtown residents from 42nd Ward Alderman Brendan Reilly.

The mixed-use building will contain 81 rental units, 5,500 square feet of ground floor retail, and a rooftop pool deck. Served by by two CTA stops within a two-block radius, the transit-oriented development features no on-site vehicular parking.

Portions of the MDA addition will be covered with greenery—at least during the warmer months of the year.
42nd Ward/HPA

The 99-foot-tall structure will serve as an annex for the adjacent MDA City Apartments inside the Daniel Burnham-designed Medical and Dental Arts Building at 63 E. Lake Street. The addition will connect to its 1920s neighbor via a sixth-floor bridge and share amenities such as its mail room, leasing offices, and fitness center.

Designed by local firm Hartshorne Plunkard Architecture (HPA), the MDA Annex sports a brick and stone facade “in keeping with the 1930’s mid-rise buildings along Wabash Avenue,” according to the alderman’s email newsletter.

The most striking choice, however, is the inclusion of “vertical planted areas” designed to cover portions of the facade with living foliage. Exterior green walls are becoming more popular in Chicago, but still face the inevitable challenges posed by harsh Midwest winters.

This particular example will utilize an evergreen ivy and a dedicated irrigation system that can provide heated water during the colder months. The individual plants will be contained in modular units that can be removed and replaced as needed.

An older rendering of RZR’s seven-story development at 171 N. Wabash.
Image via DPD Twitter

Greenery notwithstanding, the latest design is a considerably more sophisticated compared to an earlier plan pitched by developer RZR LLC Wabash. Shown to city planners in May of 2016, the previous design for 171 N. Wabash came from Florida-based WW Architects & Consulting and featured 60 residences atop ground floor retail.

While not requiring a zoning change, the project’s new developer CCA MDA II, LLC will need city permission to increase unit count up to 81. The amendment is expected to heard at this month’s meeting of the Chicago Plan Commission set for Thursday, April 19.