By Daniel Patton, March 12, 2020
Alderman Brendan Reilly and Related Midwest President Curt Bailey unveiled a new proposal for 400 N. Lake Shore Drive at the Hotel Intercontinental on March 10. Speaking at a forum hosted by the Streeterville Organization of Active Residents (SOAR), the official and the developer appear to have not only put residents at ease, but also proven that less can indeed be more.
Related Midwest hopes to begin construction by the end of the year. The company’s intention to scale back on a two-tower plan that was released and rejected in 2018 is a key to making that happen.
Gone from the previous design are the hotel component, the ground-level “podium” that connects the structures, and the top 200 feet of the larger building. The new proposal emphasizes rental occupancy, eliminates the podium completely, and caps off the larger building at 875 feet.
Although the summary fulfilled Alderman Reilly’s promise that, “you’re going to see a very different proposal from the last one,” it also came with his assurance that, “by no stretch is this approved.”
Either way, the future possibilities are looking much better than the current reality.
Located at the site of a previous effort to build Santiago Calatrava’s record-breaking Chicago Spire, 400 N. Lake Shore Drive is currently home to the hole that was excavated for the project and then abandoned when a court ruling halted it in 2014.
After receiving gracious introductions from SOAR President Deborah Gershbein and Alderman Reilly, Bailey described the proposal from the stage of the hotel’s Avenue Room, where an estimated 200 attendees had arrived to participate. He expressed admiration, enthusiasm, and pride for his company and the neighborhood.
“This is our eighth project in the last 25 years in Streeterville,” he explained. “We are enormous fans of this area … we’re very proud of the work that we’ve done here in the past and the changes we’ve seen in Streeterville.”
Referring to the development as “the next step in the evolution of this neighborhood,” he proceeded to run through a “punch list” of solutions created to accommodate concerns that residents expressed when the earlier plan was released:
- The hotel and associated programs have been removed
- The podium has been completely removed
- Hotel use has been eliminated, reducing taxi and rideshare traffic by approximately 70%. Service traffic will be directed to Lake Shore Drive
- Through-traffic will not be possible from North Water Street to Lake Shore Drive
- All pedestrian access to DuSable Park is now completed by using the Chicago Riverwalk
- The pedestrian paths have been fully redesigned to include wider paths, greater security coverage, and improved lighting
- Related Midwest remains committed to the completion of DuSable Park and the connection of the park from the Chicago Riverwalk
A slideshow of architectural renderings and bullet-point summaries complemented Bailey’s presentation. It displayed a park illuminated by dozens of lights, a protective barrier between pedestrians and Lake Shore Drive, and an arrangement of cameras that can film activity from 24 points of view throughout the 4.5 acre complex.
Bailey also stated that Related Midwest has committed $10 million towards the completion of DuSable Park and provide ample access to it as well as the Riverwalk.
The crowd responded with a round of applause and an abundance of questions.
The first enquiry revealed that the buildings would contain 1,100 residents but only 300 parking spaces, making traffic a matter of concern for the remainder of the Q&A.
Bailey indicated that, according to several of Related’s recently completed projects, a growing number of city residents prefer to live car-free. He also reiterated that the property’s delivery docks would be accessible only through Lake Shore Drive and the construction equipment needed to build them would go the same route.
Alderman Reilly stepped up to explain how he had incorrectly prioritized the need for parking garages early in his political career.
Kimley Horn traffic expert Peter Lemmon, also on hand for the presentation, addressed the issue as well. He explained that traffic on N. Water St. was necessary to avoid major inconveniences for cars and pedestrians alike.
“We’ve taken a hard look at all the different ways to run this traffic,” he said. “People need to get dropped off, and you want cars to be able to turn around.”
The accessibility, cost, completion, and operation of DuSable Park was another popular topic. The presenters indicated that those responsibilities would mostly fall within the Park District’s purview.
If all goes according to plan, the park will be used as a staging area for vehicles and equipment during construction of the first tower and open for public use upon its completion.
A number of attendees used their turn at the microphone to compliment the aesthetic of 400 N. Lake Shore Drive throughout the session, which was designed by Skidmore, Owings & Merrill architect David M. Childs.