The Lakeshore East neighborhood between the Loop and the lake probably isn’t one of the most well-known of Chicago’s many self-contained communities, but for skyscraper-watchers it’s been one of the most exciting few blocks in town. Already home to Studio Gang’s famous Aqua tower with another Gang tower likely to soon join it, the planned development conceived as a neighborhood of skyscrapers looks to be gaining yet another. According to bid-monitoring services and also reported by the Chicago Architecture Blog, Magellan Development and McHugh construction are taking bids for an unspecified 60-story mixed use tower “located at the southwest corner of Lakeshore East Park,” a description that could only apply to Lakeshore East’s infamous “Site O,” the narrow strip of undeveloped dirt along Columbus between the Blue Cross Blue Shield building and Aqua tower.
Site O was once thought to be the location of the long-rumored Gang supertall tower, which now appears to be planned for the north end of Lakeshore East instead. Other rumors have flown around about the site for ages, with lots of speculation about whether it would even be possible to build something suitably tall in such a narrow space without the cooperation of the BCBS tower’s owners and without disrupting the views of the hotshots who live in Aqua. The rumors began to solidify about a month ago, when we started hearing reports of ground surveying crews taking measurements of the site.
Now, with McHugh and Magellan actively shopping for subcontractors, it seems we can move the long-awaited Site O project from the “rumor” column to the “lookin’ pretty good” column. Unfortunately, other than the building having 60 floors and being mixed-use, we don’t have any specifics on the design or use. Hopefully Magellan will make an announcement pretty soon, as according to the request for bids they plan to start construction in May 2015.
Building O (201 North Columbus Drive) is the newest skyscraper coming to Lakeshore East, the upscale waterside enclave that sprouts skyscrapers like zits on a sweaty teenager’s back. “Building O” is a terrible name. Going back to when Lakeshore East was originally laid out in the 1970′s, all of the future buildings were given a letter until they could later be given a name. It was a good idea, because if the Illinois Central Gulf Railroad Company has been allowed to actually name the buildings when it laid them out back in 1978, we’d have skyscrapers called The Coleco, The Lowenbrau, and the Hervé Villechaize Towers. Instead Lakeshore East ended up with sensible names like 340 on the Park, The Shoreham, and The Chandler. Oh, wait…
Building O is going to be big. It gets slotted into that gaping five-story-deep hole just south of Aqua. That space is zoned for a tower up to 900 feet tall. Before Aqua was built, its space had the same ceiling. Aqua ended up 83 stories and 870 feet tall. Building O is going to ruin an awful lot of views from the Aqua tower.