Members of the development team planning to overhaul the landmark Tribune Tower and its adjacent parcels presented their proposal to a packed conference room at the Sheridan Grand Hotel in the Streeterville neighborhood yesterday evening.
The complex’s new owners, Chicago’s Golub & Company and the Los Angeles-based CIM Group, are seeking a sweeping zoning change that would transform the former office complex into new residences, retail space, and hotel rooms. Also presented were new images of a proposed tower designed by the firm Adrian Smith + Gordon Gill, which would become the city’s second tallest building if completed at the proposed height of 1,442 feet.
The plan for Tribune Tower
Interior demolition has been underway at the historic neo-Gothic high-rise since January, and the building is expected to be entirely vacated by June or July, Golub & Company principal Lee Golub indicated during the meeting. Once the Chicago Tribune staff have moved out, the developers will then begin the massive overhaul of the Tribune Tower, the adjacent WGN Radio building, and Nathan Hale Court.
The developers plan new retail space for the first two levels of the Tribune Tower complex facing Pioneer Court while a four-story addition would be constructed atop the WGN Radio building. A third-story residential courtyard will be carved out between the existing buildings, taking the place of what is currently the Tribune newsroom.
In total, 163 new condo units—a total residential footprint of 436,000 square feet—will occupy the historic tower. The lower levels of the complex’s mid-rise section will feature 47,500 square feet of retail space, while 280 underground parking spaces will sit beneath the development.
A new supertall for Michigan Avenue
The showstopper at last night’s presentation was Gordon Gill’s unveiling of the contemporary glass skyscraper proposed for the site just east of the Tribune Tower complex. “As you can imagine the discourse and dialogue around this project has been intense,” Gill said after audible laughs and gasps were heard from the audience. Gill notes that the new tower, while contemporary in aesthetic, speaks the same architectural language as the Tribune Tower with a focus on vertical lines that draws attention upwards.
Planned for the tower is 10,700 square feet of retail space at the ground level, 430 vehicle parking spaces stacked into a six-story podium, a five-star hotel with 200 rooms, 439 rental apartments, and 125 condos. While the tower’s height in stories was not specifically mentioned during the presentation, materials made available online suggest the new tower will include a total of 113 levels.
Smith + Gill founding architect Adrian Smith has designed a number of high-profile buildings in Chicago, including the Mag Mile’s NBC Tower, the Franklin Center, and Chicago’s Trump Tower. Smith also served as lead design architect with the firm SOM on Dubai’s Burj Khalifa, which has held the title of world’s tallest structure since 2008. However, the under-construction Jeddah Tower in Saudi Arabia, designed by Adrian Smith + Gordon Gill, is expected to become the world’s tallest building when it eventually tops out at nearly 3,300 feet.
If constructed as proposed, the yet-to-be-named skyscraper for the Tribune Tower site will surpass the Trump Tower in height to become Chicago’s second tallest building. The fabled Willis Tower will stand just 28 feet taller than the proposed skyscraper for Michigan Avenue. Construction of the new supertall tower could begin as early as late 2019, Golub said.
Landmarking and preservation
A designated Chicago Landmark, the Tribune Tower’s exterior facade is protected, but much of its interior is not. One notable exception is the tower’s main lobby, which was included during the building’s landmarking. While the development team views the tower’s history and name as important assets, much of the tower—including Colonel McCormick’s office—will be gutted to make way for new residences.
“Everyone can have their opinion about Colonel McCormick’s space, but it’s not part of the landmark and not part of plan,” Golub said in response to a comment from an audience member who called the developers "hypocritical" for not preserving the office of the paper’s celebrated former editor and publisher.
The requests for a more preservation-minded approach to the site’s redevelopment were echoed by several others. One such call came from Ward Miller, executive director of Preservation Chicago, who asked the team to seek landmarking for the entire complex, including Nathan Hale Court. Butler Adams, an architectural tour guide, commended the ambitious scope of the proposal, but also suggested the plan highlight the history of Pioneer Court—the original site of Jean Baptiste Point du Sable’s settlement in Chicago.
An ongoing issue related to the site’s redevelopment revolves around the Chicago Tribune signage currently affixed to the complex’s facade. While executives at Tronc view the sign as intellectual property, Golub says that it belongs to the developers. “We believe that it’s a piece of the fabric of the Tribune Tower and we’d like to preserve it as a piece of the tower’s history,” Golub stated.
When pressed on the team’s plan to address the city’s Affordable Requirements Ordinance (ARO), Golub indicated that the developers will pay $12 million into the city’s Affordable Housing Opportunity Fund (AHOF) in lieu of delivering affordable condos, but will include on-site affordable units in the rental component.
Other concerns included vehicle congestion, specifically commercial coach buses staging near the site, blocking views of neighboring buildings, an insufficient amount of parking, and an influx of new residents which could lead to an overpopulation of Streeterville.
See below for more renderings from the presentation materials from last night’s meeting.