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08.12.2014
Mystery Tower
Chinese developer releases plans for massive skyscraper, but questions remain.
Courtesy Wanda Commercial Properties Co.

In July, Chinese real estate developer Wanda Commercial Properties Co. announced plans to build an 89-story mixed-use tower in Chicago’s Lakeshore East neighborhood that would unseat Aon Center as the city’s third tallest building.

At approximately 1,150 feet tall, the tower at 375 East Wacker Drive would be among the tallest buildings in the country. So far, however, the only details released have come from the Beijing-based developer’s website, and have not been verified by local sources. AN reached out to the offices of 42nd Ward Alderman Brendan Reilly and Magellan Properties, the developer of the planned Lakeshore East neighborhood in which the building would sit. Neither would comment.

 
 

Chinese news agency Sina reported the building will house a five-star hotel and apartments, and is expected to open in 2018. Along with a retail component, it would total 1.4 million square feet of space.

The designer is still unspecified, but a rendering from Wanda Group shows three staggered volumes constructed from stacked frustums, or cut-off pyramid shapes. It includes a large cavity at the base for a road to pass through.

Magellan, the property owner and developer for Lakeshore East, said in March that it had hired Chicago’s Studio Gang to design a high-rise in the area as a follow-up to the team’s famous Aqua Tower nearby. Some have speculated that the Wanda Group design may be that building, based on a description of Gang’s design from the May issue of The New Yorker: “Her design nestles together three buildings, which softly zigzag in and out as they rise,” wrote Amy Waldman. “The middle building will straddle a road.”

Studio Gang declined to comment for this article.

The developer’s umbrella corporation, Wanda Group, is known in the U.S. for buying cinema chain AMC Entertainment Holdings, and has amassed dozens of hotels and department stores in China. The $900 million Chicago project would be the first step in what Wanda Group Chairman Wang Jianlin said will be a big move into U.S. real estate.

“Investing in Chicago property is just Wanda’s first move into the U.S. real estate market,” Jianlin said in a statement. “Within a year, Wanda will invest in more five-star hotel projects in major U.S. cities like New York, Los Angeles, and San Francisco. By 2020, Wanda will have Wanda branded five-star hotels in 12–15 major world cities and build an internationally influential Chinese luxury hotel brand.”

Chris Bentley