• Commercial Real Estate
  • Here's Related Midwest's new plan for the Chicago Spire site

    After the local alderman rejected its first design for the two-tower project at Lake Shore Drive and the Chicago River, the Chicago developer has shortened the buildings and scrapped a proposed hotel.?

    Related Midwest

    Related Midwest's scaled-down plan for the site once set to be home to the Chicago Spire

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    To a casual observer, Related Midwest’s revised plan for the two-tower project on the Chicago Spire site might not look all that different from the original,79彩票注册网址 at least from a distance.

    79彩票注册网址The basic geometry of the two buildings is unchanged, with multiple terraced setbacks creating a tapered effect as they rise—“reminiscent of a waterfall,” according to a statement from the Chicago developer. Related Midwest plans the development on a key parcel at the Chicago River and Lake Shore Drive, best known as the site of the aborted 2,000-foot Chicago Spire.

    79彩票注册网址“It does look a lot like what it was before, certainly from afar,” Related Midwest President Curt Bailey said in an interview yesterday.

    A closer inspection reveals some significant differences from the developer’s first design, presented nearly two years ago. Gone is a 175-room hotel amid concerns from neighbors and downtown Ald. Brendan Reily, 42nd, about increased traffic the hotel would generate. Same for a bulky podium connecting the two towers at their bases.

    79彩票注册网址The biggest difference may be the project’s height: The two towers would rise 875 and 765 feet, down from 1,100 and 850 feet under the original design. The buildings are shorter because they no longer include the hotel and no longer stand on a podium, Bailey said. At 1,100 feet, the taller high-rise would have ranked as the eighth tallest in Chicago, according to the Council on Tall Buildings & Urban Habitats. The 875-foot tower would rank 14th now.

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    Related Midwest

    79彩票注册网址Related Midwest's original—and taller—plan for the old Chicago Spire site

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    Related Midwest unveiled its revised proposal at a meeting tonight at the InterContinental Chicago hotel on North Michigan Avenue, part of the approval process for the development. The firm has been working on its plans for the property at 400 N. Lake Shore Drive since before its 2014 acquisition of the site. It is one of several Chicago projects in Related Midwest's bulging pipeline, which includes two developments in the Fulton Market District and the 78,79彩票注册网址 a massive mixed-use development in the South Loop.

    Ald. Reilly rejected Related Midwest’s original design for the Lake Shore Drive site in October 2018, sending the developer and its New York architect, David Childs, back to the drawing board. With its prime location along the lakefront and river, the project will occupy a prominent spot on the Chicago skyline, putting extra pressure on the alderman and developer to get it right.

    The project—called 400 Lake Shore Drive—now will be entirely residential, with the taller north building encompassing 600 luxury apartments. Related Midwest aims to break ground next year on the development’s $400 million first phase, which will include the taller north tower and outdoor spaces at ground level. The timing and composition of the second building, which could include about 500 apartments or condominiums, will depend on market conditions, Bailey said.

    The market has been especially good to apartment developers like Related Midwest the last few years, allowing them to fill up new buildings quickly and sell or refinance them for fat profits. Related Midwest’s other projects include One Bennett Park, a nearby residential tower that opened last year. The developer has leased about 80 percent of the building’s 276 apartments and sold half of its 60 condos.

    But the downtown apartment market is slowing, and the outlook looks increasingly uncertain by the day amid jitters in the financial markets over the spreading coronavirus. Construction financing for apartment high-rises, especially ones as large as Related Midwest’s, could become tough to secure if the economy sputters and lenders decide to retrench.

    On the other hand, projects with multiple uses are typically harder to finance, so Related Midwest’s decision to remove the hotel could work in its favor with lenders.

    79彩票注册网址“There’s some benefit in simplicity and the singularity of product type when you are looking to get it financed,” Bailey said.

    Some observers might notice another major change in Related Midwest’s revised design: The taller tower, originally on the south end of the site, is now on the north. The developer now plans to use the existing foundation from the unbuilt Spire project—now just a 76-foot-deep hole in the ground full of water—as the foundation of the north tower, Bailey said. Related Midwest originally planned to discard the underground structure and start anew.

    The developer’s decision to scrap the podium at the base of the two high-rises will mollify critics of the tower-on-a-podium design. Though it’s a practical solution, creating space for parking and commercial space, many disparage the blocky structures as bad architecture, sapping energy at the street level.

    The project’s design includes two key references to the city’s architectural past: terra cotta accents and a modern version of the Chicago window—the three-paneled window style dating back to the 1890s.

    79彩票注册网址But the towers’ setbacks will be the development’s most prominent feature.

    “Reminiscent of a waterfall, the cascading silhouette of each tower will form expansive outdoor terraces that extend individual residences beyond their walls,” the Related Midwest statement says. “Placed at carefully proportioned intervals, these outdoor living areas will present a rare opportunity to enjoy sweeping, 180-degree views of the adjacent lakefront, river and cityscape.”

    Those views will cost a lot of money. Related Midwest plans to charge some of the highest rents in the city for apartments in the north tower, Bailey said. The developer already is well-acquainted with the top of the market: One Bennett Park79彩票注册网址 is one of the most expensive apartment buildings in downtown Chicago, with an average asking rent of $5,406 per month, according to real estate information provider CoStar Group.

    As with its original plan, Related Midwest does not plan to include affordable units in the project to comply with the Affordable Requirements Ordinance,79彩票注册网址 Chicago’s inclusionary housing law. Because the developer does not need a zoning change from the city for the project, it is not required to include affordable units on-site. But Related Midwest still needs Reilly's blessing before it can push ahead with construction. 

    The development will also include 4.5 acres of open space, the bulk of it within DuSable Park, a long-awaited public green space just east of Lake Shore Drive. Related Midwest has agreed to donate $10 million to the Chicago Park District to pay for construction of the 3.3-acre park. The open space also includes an extension of the Chicago Riverwalk connecting downtown to the park and Navy Pier.

    “We’re excited about building a beautiful building and completing the riverwalk,” Bailey said.

    79彩票注册网址More renderings to be unveiled tonight:

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