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Supertall Tribune Tower East proposal returns with minimal changes

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The planned skyscraper will still rise 1,422 feet

A rendering of a slender, tapering glass tower rising above surrounding downtown buildings and a large body of water.
Tribune Tower East includes 125 condos, 439 rental apartments, and 200 hotel rooms.
Images courtesy of CIM/Gloub

On Tuesday night, developers unveiled updated plans for a mixed-use supertall tower slated for the parking lot just east of Chicago’s landmark Tribune Tower. Although more than a year and a half passed since the ambitious proposal made its initial public debut, the changes to the skyscraper were surprisingly minimal.

The design from local firm Adrian Smith + Gordon Gill Architecture still rises 1,422 feet above Streeterville. The upper portion remains aesthetically unchanged, retaining the distinctive two-pronged crown that Chicago Tribune architecture critic Blair Kamin compared to “Batman’s mask.”

Instead, the majority of the revisions are more practical in nature: focusing on the building’s lowest levels and how the development will handle vehicle loading, traffic circulation, and pedestrian access.

Cars and pedestrians load and unload along a curving, tunnel-like drive next to a glass-walled hotel lobby.
Hotel loading and lobby access moves off of Upper Illinois to a new circulation drive beneath the tower.

Under the latest plan, pick-up and drop-off for the tower’s residential units remains along N. Cityfront Plaza Drive, while hotel drop-off moves to an internal drive cutting beneath the building between Cityfront Plaza and Upper Illinois Street. Additional traffic circulation information can be found in the full slideshow presented by the developers.

Another—and arguably more exciting change—includes improvements to the adjacent riverfront plaza known as Pioneer Court. This space currently serves as a base for various architecture river cruises and is home to an outdoor cafe and Chicago’s glassy Foster-designed Apple Store.

Here, the developers propose new pavers and landscaping including trees, planters, and publicly accessible lawn areas. A realigned pedestrian promenade dubbed the “Pioneer Path” aims to better bridge Michigan Avenue and Cityfront Plaza.

An overhead view of a landscaped pedestrian plaza surrounded by taller buildings. There is a gently curving pathway lined with trees and planters.
A rendering of Pioneer Court’s proposed “Pioneer Path,” flanked by new landscape improvements.

In its current configuration, the Tribune Tower East skyscraper calls for 125 condos, 439 rental apartments, 200 hotel rooms, a 430-car parking garage, and 10,700 square feet of retail space.

If approved by the city, the mixed-use supertall could begin construction in 2022. Upon its completion, Tribune Tower East will claim the title of Chicago’s second tallest building—eclipsing both nearby Trump Tower and the under-construction Vista Tower. The project will rise just 30 feet shy of the Willis (formerly Sears) Tower.

In the meantime, CIM and Golub continue to work to convert the neo-Gothic Tribune Tower into 162 luxury condos. That project is expected to welcome its first residents in early 2021. The development team purchased the landmark office building and the adjacent parking lot from Tribune Media in 2016 for $240 million.