As the West Loop’s building boom shows little sign of slowing down, developer Marquette Companies presented its plan to build a combined 500 apartments across two sites at the neighborhood’s western edge.
Shown at a community meeting on Wednesday evening, the proposal calls for a 21-story tower at the former site of the BellyQ restaurant at 1400 W. Randolph Street and an 11-story building near Union Park at 1440 W. Randolph Street. Chicago-based architecture firm Brininstool + Lynch designed both structures.
Marquette’s Darren Sloniger told West Loop neighbors that he hoped the transit-oriented rental projects would build on the success of The Mason, its 263-unit apartment development at nearby 180 N. Ada Street, which was seventy percent leased after just eight weeks.
1400 W. Randolph Street
First, the development team presented its plans for the former BellyQ building, a parking lot to the north, and adjacent corner parcel currently home to a billboard. Here, they envision a 21-story, 230-foot-tall tower with retail and restaurant space, 67 parking spaces on the ground floor and second level, and 252 apartments above.
The design of 1400 W. Randolph is similar to that of The Mason, explained architect David Brininstool, and features an industrial loft aesthetic with a “brawny steel expression” in its facade and a structural grid framing the rooftop amenity space. The building is oriented north-south to serve as “a terminus for Randolph Street,” according to the designer.
Since the alleyways behind the property are vacated and no longer functioning, vehicular traffic would enter and exit on Ogden Avenue. The building’s lobby and commercial space face Randolph, which is a more active and pedestrian-friendly thoroughfare.
1440 W. Randolph Street
Then west of Ogden and just across from Union Park, Marquette is seeking approval to replace a two-story industrial building and adjoining parking lot with an 11-story apartment project with 243 units and parking for 85 cars. The property includes an existing five-story loft office building on the corner which will be preserved and “brought up to current West Loop standards,” said Sloniger.
The development team initially filed a zoning application for two six- and eight-story structures at the site, but said it combined them into a single building after hearing feedback from community groups describing the design as “jail-like.”
Marquette first planned on locating all of the project’s required affordable housing in the shorter building, but the city’s departments of Housing and Planning nixed the idea. The developer said it is now looking to build a mix of on-site and off-site affordable units, but would not disclose the exact breakdown.
The new design for 1440 W. Randolph is broken up into two sections: one presenting the park with a glass curtain wall, the other with private balconies. The Randolph Street frontage would feature a lobby lounge, fitness center, dog park, and bike cafe with additional resident amenities located above the second and tenth floors.
Vehicle access would happen off Lake Street, and the alleyway behind the property would be widened from 10 to 20 feet.
“Wasting your money”
After the presentation, a handful of West Loop neighbors asked questions and voiced concerns about the two proposals. The most significant criticism, however, came from 27th Ward Alderman Walter Burnett Jr. who was not on board with placing residential units so close to Union Park, especially at the 1440 Randolph site.
“The problem with  is that we have concerts and large picnics in the park and [the building’s residents] will complain and they will complain to me,” said the alderman. Architect David Brininstool responded by saying that the team viewed the activity in the park as a plus for the development and the balconies as box seats. “Yeah, but you don’t live there,” countered Burnett.
The alderman told the team that they are welcome to keep revising their plans but suggested that they were essentially “wasting” their money pushing for so many apartments at 1440 W. Randolph. The elected official also recommended that the developers show other upcoming buildings—like the nearby 190-foot West End on Fulton office project—so that residents would be less surprised by the height of the latest proposals.
The 1400 and 1440 W. Randolph Street developments will need separate zoning changes along with hefty payments into Chicago’s Neighborhood Opportunity Fund to move forward. The process involves approvals by the Chicago Plan Commission, Zoning Committee, and full City Council.