Alderman rejects plan for former Chicago Spire site

A rendering of 400 N. Lake Shore Drive.

“As it stands, this project remains stalled”

Related Midwest’s two-tower plan to redevelop the infamous hole left behind by the failed Chicago Spire ran into a setback Monday morning as 42nd Ward Alderman Brendan Reilly announced to residents that he had rejected the developer’s plan for 400 N. Lake Shore Drive.

The latest proposal for the long-dormant site was publicly revealed in May. Designed by Skidmore, Owings & Merrill, it called for a 1,100-foot southern tower containing 300 condo units and 175 hotel rooms and a 850-foot northern tower with 550 rental apartments. The gleaming glass and terracotta-clad development would share a low-rise podium and create new pedestrian access to the yet-to-be-completed nearby DuSable Park.

As it stands, this project remains stalled and will not move forward,” read Reilly’s email message. “In the event the developer chooses to address the legitimate concerns regarding their proposal, my office will be sure to provide all impacted neighbors with an update.”


The alderman presented a list of issues that Related must address before the project can once again be considered:

  • Eliminating the hotel rooms.
  • Reducing the podium’s height and bulk.
  • Managing more deliveries and service vehicles through the Lake Shore Drive access ramp and below-grade parking.
  • Creating a security plan for the extended Riverwalk and DuSable Park.
  • Restricting access along East North Water Street.
  • Eliminating the proposed Ogden Slip Public Esplanade.

Virtually all of the concerns regarding 400 N. Lake Shore Drive seem to be issues that directly impact the site’s low-rise townhouse neighbors to the west. The alderman’s proposed changes would limit vehicular traffic as well as restrict (or at least better monitor) non-resident pedestrians walking past existing homes on E. North Water Street.

In a recent in-depth feature examining the shortcomings of the Streeterville area’s public streetscape as a cautionary tale for future developments, Chicago Tribune architecture critic Blair Kamin suggested the project’s proposed extension of the promenade along the Ogden Slip was “vulnerable to NIMBY pressure.” Based on the alderman’s email, this appears to be the case.

Last winter, Alderman Reilly presented a similar list of community concerns when he blocked a plan for a trio of skyscrapers slated for the north east corner of Lakeshore East. Those issues—which ironically focused on the site’s security and the elimination of a hotel component—were ultimately addressed by developers Magellan and Lendlease and building went on to be approved by the Chicago Plan Commission last week.

If only for the sake of that unsightly hole in the ground at 400 N. Lake Shore Drive, let’s hope an agreement between Related Midwest and the alderman can be reached soon. The developer had said it hoped to break ground on both towers in the summer of 2019 and deliver in 2023.

“Related Midwest deeply values the feedback from Alderman Reilly and the Streeterville community regarding our proposal for 400 Lake Shore Drive,” read a statement from a company spokesperson. “We will continue to collaborate with all stakeholders to refine our plan and move forward with a design that realizes the potential of this site—and adjacent areas like DuSable Park—in a way that maximizes benefits for neighbors, residents, and the greater Chicago community.”

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