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The new class of skyscrapers that will forever change the Chicago skyline

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The new class of skyscrapers that will forever change the Chicago skyline


Chicago is soaring to new heights

By Jay Koziarz  
Updated Dec 18, 2018, 2:33pm CST


A rendering showing the under construction Vista Tower (right) and the proposed supertall addition to Tribune tower (left).  Rendering courtesy of Golub & Co./CIM Group

As the birthplace of the skyscraper and home to one of the world’s greatest skylines, Chicago is in the midst of reinventing itself with new batch of very tall, high-profile towers.

While Chicago hasn’t completed an 800-footer since 2010, that’s about to change and in a very big way. Four projects exceeding that mark are already under construction with more patiently waiting in the wings. With big name designers like Jahn, Viñoly, Stern, Pelli, Gang, Childs, Goettsch, Smith, and Gill involved, the newest generation of tall towers is raising the bar both literally and architecturally.

Here’s a look at new class of skyscrapers that will redefine Chicago’s iconic skyline. Under construction projects are listed first followed by green-lit and finally still-pending and on-hold proposals.

This article was originally published on October 5, 2015 and has been updated to reflect the latest news.



Magellan Development Group

Vista Tower

Status: Under Construction

Currently rising along Chicago River’s main branch, the 1,198-foot Vista Tower is certainly hard to miss. Its angular design from Chicago architecture firm Studio Gang is made up of three stacks of geometric “frustums” wrapped in eight different shades of glass that emphasize its undulating form.

The supertall skyscraper will contain 406 luxury condos, a 192-room five-star hotel, and impressive amenities. Vista Tower is poised to become the city’s third tallest building and second highest roof when it opens in 2020. It is the tallest building under construction in the United States outside of New York.



NEMA Chicago  Rafael Viñoly Architects

NEMA Chicago

Status: Under Construction

Formerly known as One Grant Park, this 76-story tower is climbing skyward at the southern edge of Chicago’s skyline at the corner of Roosevelt and Indiana and brings some serious height to the South Loop. Developed by Crescent Heights and designed by Rafael Viñoly Architects with a nod to the Willis Tower’s “bundled tube” layout, the 800-unit luxury rental tower broke ground in early 2017 and will open in 2019.

Rising 896 feet, NEMA Chicago comes up a little short of the official supertall definition set by the Council on Tall Buildings and Urban Habitat. That being said, the project’s second phase does call for a taller twin tower which may exceed the magic 984-foot threshold.



One Bennett Park.  Related Midwest

One Bennett Park

Status: Under Construction

After breaking ground in Chicago’s Streeterville neighborhood in 2016, the 70-story One Bennett Park project recently welcomed residents to its 279 high-end rental apartments. Work continues to its 69 ultra-luxe upper level condominiums which are expected to open in the spring of 2019.

Developer Related Midwest selected New York’s Robert A.M. Stern Architects to design the 836-foot-tall building with numerous setbacks and facade variations to echo the Art Deco residential towers of the early 20th century. The high-rise will be joined by a new park from Michael Van Valkenburgh Associates, the firm that designed Chicago’s Maggie Daley Park and 606 trail.

The tower—located at 451 E. Grand Avenue—and its adjacent green space both get their name from architect Edward H. Bennett who co-authored the influential 1909 Plan of Chicago with legendary urban planner Daniel Burnham.



110 N. Wacker  Goettsch Partners

Bank of America Tower

Status: Under Construction

Located at 110 N. Wacker, this Bank of America-anchored office tower is approved to soar 55 stories and 820 feet along the Chicago River. Designed by Goettsch Partners and co-developed by the Howard Hughes Corp. and Riverside Investment and Development, it features a 45-foot-wide riverwalk, a public pocket park, a soaring lobby, and a serrated western facade designed to maximize water views.

Now under construction, the high-rise replaces the midcentury low-rise General Growth building. Bank of America Tower is the tallest new office building to rise in Chicago since the Two Prudential Plaza opened in 1990. It is expected to open in 2020.



One Chicago Square.  Goettsch Partners/Hartshorne Plunkard Architecture

One Chicago Square

Status: Approved

Proposed to replace a block-sized parking lot across from Chicago’s Holy Name Cathedral at the corner of State Street and Chicago Avenue, this mixed-use project from JDL Development and Sterling Bay calls for a pair of towers rising 49 and 76 stories atop a shared podium. According to the latest information from the developer, the taller of the two will top out at 1,011 feet.

One Chicago Square is a design collaboration between Goettsch Partners and Hartshorne Plunkard Architecture. It will contain a Whole Foods store, a Life Time Athletic club, restaurant space, commercial offices, 1,090 parking stalls, and a mix of 869 rental and condo units. Work is expected to begin in early 2019 and wrap up in 2022.



1000M.  JAHN


Status: Approved

This Helmut Jahn-created condo building at 1000 S. Michigan Avenue will make a sizable impact on Chicago’s southern skyline when it eventually soars 832-feet over Grant Park. The glassy 74-story skyscraper will replace a surface parking lot with 323 luxury condominiums with interiors designed by Kara Mann.

Project developers Time Equities, Oaks Capital, and JK Equities are currently pre-sales mode and have listed a number of units including a South Loop record-shattering $8.1 million penthouse. Provided pre-construction sales are strong, 1000M could break ground in 2019.



“Parcel I.”  bKL Architecture

Lakeshore East ‘Parcel I’

Status: Approved

Across the river from 400 N. Lake Shore Drive and east of Vista Tower, this 85-story condo tower is slated for for “Parcel I” within Lakeshore East’s alphabetical master plan. Designed by bKL Architecture the glassy skyscraper will rise 950 feet above it parking podium.

The 600-unit tower was approved by the Chicago Plan Commission in October of 2018. Before work on the “Parcel I” high-rise begins, developer Magellan Group and LendLease will first complete two shorter sibling towers: a 40-story rental building at “Parcel K/L” and a 50-story condo tower at “Parcel J.” The developers expect construction on the three-tower project to take between five and seven years.



Salesforce Tower.  Rendering by Steelblue

Salesforce Tower

Status: Approved

The final piece of the three-building Wolf Point development, Salesforce Tower will rise 813 feet above the junction of the Chicago River’s north, south, and main branches. Anchored by its namesake tenant, the 60-story skyscraper is on track to break ground in 2020 and open in early 2023.

The glass Pelli Clarke Pelli-design office building will slot between the 490-foot Wolf Point West high-rise and the 660-foot under-construction Wolf Point East building. Developers Hines Interests and Joseph P. Kennedy Enterprises have zoning already in place to build a 950-foot-tall tower at the prominent riverfront site.



BMO Tower.  Goettsch Partners

BMO Tower

Status: Approved

Another Goettsch and Riverside collaboration, this BMO Financial Group-anchored office tower will rise next to Chicago’s Union Station. The 50-story, 700-foot building will include a 1.5-acre publicly accessible park at its base above a 400-stall garage.

A key part of Union Station’s multiphase master redevelopment plan, the transit-oriented project replaces an existing Amtrak-owned parking structure. BMO Tower is on track to break ground in 2019. It will be the city’s tallest building west of Canal Street when it opens in 2022.



725 W. Randolph.  Roger Ferris + Partners

725 W. Randolph

Status: Approved

While a height of “just” 615 feet puts this tower well out of the running for the city’s tallest, the project headed to 725 W. Randolph Street will nonetheless make a big impact given its location in the mostly mid-rise Fulton Market District. The 52-story development is slated to become Chicago’s tallest building west of the Kennedy Expressway—eclipsing the 495-foot apartment tower at nearby 727 W. Madison Street.

Designed by Connecticut-based Roger Ferris + Partners, 725 W. Randolph will feature 370 rental apartments, ground floor retail space, an Equinox fitness club, and a 165-room Equinox-branded hotel. Related Midwest received zoning approval for the project in the summer of 2018 and hopes to break ground on the skyline-extending tower in early 2019.



Golub & Co./CIM Group

Tribune Tower East

Status: Proposed

At 1,422 feet, this proposed addition to Chicago’s neo-gothic Tribune Tower is gunning for the title of Chicago’s second tallest building. Slated to replace a parking lot just east of its historic neighbor, the yet-to-be-named skyscraper will contain a 200-key luxury hotel, 439 rental apartments, 125 condominiums, and 430 parking spaces.

The design from hometown architecture firm of Adrian Smith + Gordon Gill is quite slender by Chicago standards—partly due to a protected view corridor requiring Tribune Tower to remain visible from the Ogden Slip to the east.

While co-developers CIM Group and Golub & Co. continue to seek city approval for their new supertall, the team is moving ahead with a conversion of the landmarked 1925 Tribune office building into luxury condominiums.




400 N. Lake Shore Drive

Status: Stalled pending design change

After years of rumors and speculation, Related Midwest unveiled its design for the site of the failed 2,000-foot Chicago Spire in in May. The plan called for a pair of Skidmore, Owings & Merrill-designed towers containing a combined 550 rental apartments, 300 condo units, and 175 hotel rooms. The duo would rise 1,100 and 850 feet atop a shared podium.

In October, downtown Alderman Brendan Reilly rejected the proposal and placed the project on hold until the Related “addressed legitimate concerns” raise by neighbors. Issues included a desire to remove the hotel component, reduce bulk of the podium, and restrict public access to the site and neighboring DuSable Park.

Related has yet present an updated design for 400 N. Lake Shore Drive. The developer was originally hoping to break ground on the towers in the summer of 2019 ahead of a 2023 delivery date. It’s unclear how the alderman’s rejection will affect the proposed timeline.



“The 78.”  Rendering by ICON, master planning by SOM, architectural contributions from ASGG and SOM

The 78

Status: Master plan approved, design subject to change

While the final design of the ambitious megaproject known as “The 78” will change as potential users are identified, the multiphase plan allows for skyscrapers as tall as 950 feet—serious height considering the site’s Near South Side location between the South Loop and Chinatown.

Developed by Related Midwest and master planned by architecture firm Skidmore, Owings & Merrill, The 78 received initial zoning approval from the Chicago Plan Commission in November.

Although the site reportedly came very close to landing Amazon’s HQ2 campus, work on the 62-acre mixed-use development will likely need to secure some other big corporate tenant before vertical construction kicks into high gear.

Credit for this story idea and headline goes to former Curbed Chicago editor AJ LaTrace.




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Chicago est une mégapole américaine dont on parle moins souvent et qui a pourtant tout à gagner à être connue. Cette nouvelle génération d'immeubles s'inscrit parfaitement dans sa réputation (grandement méritée) de ville d'architecture par excellence.

Sur le plan urbanistique elle n'en cède pas moins aux autres. Son centre-ville est dense mais très aéré et vraiment élégant avec ses voies d'eau canalisées. Son front de lac est un bijou sur le plan environnemental. J'ai d'ailleurs eu la chance de visiter à quelques occasions cette ville magnifique et impressionnante. Or en tant qu'amateur d'art sous toutes ses formes, j'avoue que j'y ai été séduit à chaque visite. 

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