The decade-plus-long saga to redevelop the hole left behind by the failed 2,000-foot-tall Chicago Spire is once again moving forward after Related Midwest unveiled its latest plans for the vacant high-profile site at 400 N. Lake Shore Drive. If the proposal is approved, the developer hopes to break ground early next year.
On Tuesday, Related presented a revised design for the site featuring a pair of towers rising 875 and 765 feet and containing a combined 1,100 residential units. The proposal replaces an earlier version calling for a 1,100-foot and an 850-foot tower with a total of 300 condo units, 550 rental apartments, and 175 hotel rooms. The plan was rejected by Alderman Brendan Reilly in 2018.
Among the changes—made in direct response to feedback from neighbors and negotiations with the alderman—was the elimination of the hotel component as well as the removal of a multi-story podium connecting the towers. Parking has dropped from 750 to 300 underground spaces.
Meanwhile, the orientation of the towers has swapped, with the taller building now occupying the northern portion of the site. This was done to take better advantage of the parcel’s existing foundations, Related’s Ann Thompson tells Curbed Chicago.
Designed by architect David Childs of Skidmore, Owings & Merrill, the two skyscrapers retain their three-part Chicago-style bay windows, and terracotta continues to be a “feature element” of the facade, says Thompson.
The development team also revealed an updated design and pedestrian security plan for the site’s riverwalk connection to the future home of DuSable Park, located on the opposite side of Lake Shore Drive. Related is contributing $10 million to the park’s creation and will use the lakefront parcel as a staging area for the first tower.
A proposed secondary northern access point for the park was ditched in favor of a single underpass by the river. Although the scrapped access path would have used what was supposed to be a legally protected public easement next to the townhomes lining the Ogden Slip, it seems that the promenade was indeed “vulnerable to NIMBY pressure” as predicted by the Chicago Tribune’s Blair Kamin back in 2018.
“We spent a lot of time on this,” said Related Midwest president Curt Bailey at Tuesday’s meeting, adding that the decision to remove the northern pedestrian connection was based on community input collected during the public process with the Alderman’s office. “In the end we decided that having one access point that we could really control, light, and securitize made the most sense.”
Related aims to begin construction at 400 N. Lake Shore Drive in 2021 and anticipates a three to three-and-a-half-year construction timeline for the first tower. The developer currently envisions 600 luxury apartments in the north tower and an additional 500 rental units in the southern tower—though the latter could shift to condominiums based on future market conditions, Bailey said.
Last year, Related went to the city and was granted an extension on the zoning entitlements put in place by the Spire project and will need to amend that plan before construction can begin. If Related were to start the zoning process over from scratch, their proposal would fall under the stricter affordable housing rules and Neighborhood Opportunity Fund requirements that were adopted by the city in recent years.
“We’ve been spending a lot of time with the developer negotiating in earnest over the past several months,” said Alderman Reilly at the meeting. “By no stretch is this project approved, but I think it is fair to say that a lot of progress has been made, and it’s headed in the right direction.”