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Wrigleyville is quickly developing into an entertainment hub that offers more than just baseball
Chicago’s Wrigley Field is more than a baseball stadium. It is a pilgrimage site for faithful Cubs fans and for anyone else serious about Major League Baseball. The second oldest Major League stadium, Wrigley has changed very little in its 102 years. On the other hand, the surrounding Lakeview neighborhood has evolved, and is evolving, at an ever increasing rate. Three new major projects immediately adjacent to the field are hoping to transform the area into a year-round attraction.
Sharing an irregular block with the stadium a new mid-rise tower is well on its way to completion. Designed by Stantec (formerly VOA), the mixed-use office-retail project will be the new home of the Cubs administration and a backdrop for a new plaza. The six-story structure is careful not to be taller than the stadium, and is only slightly taller than the three- and four-story residential neighborhood beyond. The triangular plaza created by the new building and the stadium is expected to be a vibrant public space with programing throughout the year.
“The Ricketts family’s goal is to provide an environment that is community-friendly and has a sense of space that can be a town square for Wrigleyville.” Hickory Street Capital’s vice president Eric Nordness, himself a Wrigleyville resident, said. “That can be everything from family ice skating in the winter and farmer’s markets in the summer and fall, all the way to kid’s theater programs and a maybe a movie series on the large AV screen on the front of the building.”
Along with the office project, Stantec and Hickory Street Capital are also behind a seven-story hotel beginning to rise across the street. The future Starwood Hotel will have 180 rooms, with extensive retail and concessions at street level. Both projects were initiated and backed by the Ricketts family, owners of the Cubs. The office tower and plaza are expected to be completed by summer 2017, and the hotel opening is planned for summer 2018.
Directly across the street to the south of the stadium, another major development has recently broken ground. The Solomon Cordwell Buenz-designed Clark and Addison is going up after nearly 10 years of negotiating with the public over the project’s form and program. Weaving between existing buildings along Clark street, the large mixed-use complex will include a 10-screen theater, retail, apartments, and a recreation clubhouse. Residents of the 148 apartments will have access to a community kitchen, a fitness center, event space, and a business center. The building’s clubhouse will also offer over 5,000 square feet of indoor space and 8,746 square feet of rooftop outdoor space, which includes a pool and spa. The project steps back six feet at the street level to widen the sidewalk for the throngs of fans that pass the project on their way to the stadium.
By 2018, the heart of the Wrigleyville neighborhood will be unrecognizable, except for the constant that is Wrigley Field. Considering the proximity to Lake Michigan, transportation, a major university, and an already thriving nightlife scene, it was only a matter of time before the area around the field was updated. With a new public plaza, and more non-baseball related entertainment, the Friendly Confines will be just that much more friendly.
With at least four new towers, all within a few blocks of one another, either completed or planned to be completed before 2020, Milwaukee’s skyline is seeing its greatest change in recent memory. Though the city’s East Side and Third Ward, immediately north and south of downtown, respectively, have seen modest development over the past 15 years, the downtown itself has been decidedly quiet for more than 20 years.
The first project to be finished was 833 East Michigan Avenue. At 18 stories, the $100 million tower is tall by Milwaukee standards. The multitenant office building was designed by Milwaukee-based Kahler Slater. With so few contemporary office buildings downtown, 833 East stands out with its integrated technology and open floor plans. And with views of Lake Michigan on three sides, the project is particularly appealing as the city continues to improve the lakefront.
Less than a block away, one of Milwaukee’s most recognized businesses, Northwestern Mutual, is doubling down on its investment here. The company’s 32-story, 1.1-million-square-foot office tower will be one of the cities largest and tallest buildings. The $450 million project includes the tower and a lowrise, with a two-block-long commons, which will connect the highrise to Northwestern Mutual’s other historic Benjamin H. Marshall–designed neoclassical office building. Designed by New Haven–based Pickard Chilton, the tower is a sweeping curve not dissimilar to Chicago’s 333 Wacker. Well underway, the project has already significantly changed downtown´s appearance. Much to the delight of the city, the tower will help maintain 1,100 jobs in the neighborhood, while potentially adding another 1,900. The commons will feature public spaces, including the new Northwestern Mutual Gardens, a visitors’ center, and a public cafe.
Northwestern Mutual is not stopping with a new office tower. Immediately northwest of the tower, site work has begun on its next investment, a 33-story residential, parking, and retail tower. Even though this structure, designed by Solomon Cordwell Buenz, will be shorter than the office tower, it will add 300 residential units to a downtown that is almost completely devoid of housing. Northwestern Mutual’s decision to build both a residential and office tower in the often-sleepy downtown is intended to strengthen the city. “We believe in Milwaukee. It’s been our hometown for virtually all of our 155 years,” Northwestern Mutual chairman and CEO John E. Schlifske said. “This will be a signature development that makes a huge statement about the attractiveness of the whole Milwaukee metro area. We are going to be here and continue to play a vital role in this community for generations to come.”
Adding to the housing stock of the area, another skyscraper has just taken a major step toward becoming realized. The much-anticipated Couture, designed by Milwaukee-based Rinka|Chung, has recently received approval from the federal government for the demolition of the transit center that is currently on its site. Federal approval was required because the transit center was partially paid for with federal money. Local company Barrett Visionary Development is currently in the process of acquiring the land, and is expecting to start site work, including demolition, by August, with construction starting in earnest in early 2017. With completion of the $122 million project expected to wrap up in 2019, the Couture will rise 44 stories and include a public-transit concourse for Milwaukee’s forthcoming streetcar. The base of the tower will include 50,000 square feet of retail. Its position directly on Lincoln Memorial Boulevard means residents will have uninterrupted views of Lake Michigan, the Discovery World museum, the Santiago Calatrava–designed Milwaukee Art Museum, and the Eero Saarinen–designed War Memorial.
Rinka|Chung also has its hands in the planned Lakefront Gateway Project, which will help connect all of these developments to the lakefront. Led by Milwaukee-based GRAEF, a team comprising of Rinka|Chung, Vancouver-based PFS Studio, Toronto-based Dan Euser Waterarchitecture, and social event group NEWaukee, the Lakefront Gateway will bridge the busy Lincoln Memorial Boulevard. Its design, titled Urban Confluence, won out in a competition against teams lead by AECOM, James Corner Field Operations, and the Office of James Burnett. The GRAEF design is intended to be a civic space and city icon, as well as a connection between downtown and the lakefront.
For those familiar with Milwaukee’s downtown, all of this development may come as a bit of a surprise, considering the extensive number of empty stores farther to the west of these new towers. But Mayor Tom Barrett believes investing in downtown is vital to the health of the city as a whole. “This is a once-in-a-generation chance to make an investment of this scale in downtown Milwaukee. It means more jobs, a stronger tax base, more community support, and more Northwestern Mutual employees giving back to all areas of the community,” he said.
Chicago’s ongoing hotel boom has its latest icon: a 50-story glass tower whose owners proudly announced their new downtown presence with tall, white lettering visible from many blocks down the Chicago River. The opening of Loews Chicago Hotel follows the company’s July acquisition of the InterContinental Chicago O’Hare Hotel.
At 928,000 square feet, the Streeterville location is a bold real estate move, but its architecture seeks to blend in tastefully. A stone and precast concrete base gives way to a tower sheathed in a blue-gray glass curtain wall. Chicago’s Solomon Cordwell Buenz designed the tower, recalling at times their work on The Legacy—a similarly understated glass tower whose shape maximized spectacular downtown views.
The hotel’s interior design “pays homage to Chicago’s strong architecture and the beauty of the city’s infrastructure,” according to a press release from Loews. Apparently an executive was inspired by Carl Sandburg’s famous poem “Chicago.” Its mutable, modern elegance could hardly pass for “Stormy, husky, brawling,” but touches of brick, concrete, and metal play nicely off more luxurious materials, like mohair, cashmere, and leather—a palette that was drawn from fashions “commonly worn in winter by Chicagoans,” according to interior design firm Simeone Deary Design Group.
When they open their dorm room windows, Loyola University sophomores living in the college’s new Center for Sustainable Urban Living won’t glimpse another brutalist high-rise; they’ll look out onto the massive greenhouse that contains the building’s atrium, lobby, and agricultural lab.
“This building is really a tool to teach sustainability and the ethics of conservation,” said Devon Patterson, one of the project’s lead designers with Solomon Cordwell Buenz (SCB). “At one point the greenhouse was a small part of the building, a demonstration. But it really became the heart of the building.”
Trusses 62 feet long curve over the space, breaking with the classic symmetrical arc of most farmland greenhouses. Instead, the dynamic shape shrugs wind and rain off to the building’s east, nourishing its natural ventilation and greywater recycling systems.
In the midst of a building boom, Chicago’s Loyola University asked SCB to add residence halls, classrooms, labs, and offices to a new chunk of its lakeshore campus in Rogers Park. To sort out the many programs, the architects took inspiration from Thomas Jefferson’s “academical village” at the University of Virginia. The Founding Father organized dormitories and classroom buildings around a central lawn, promoting interaction among an intellectual community.
Likewise SCB’s design folds an existing high-rise building on Sheridan Road into a plan that links its 10 stories to more freshman dorms on the site’s south end, with labs, classrooms, and a student lounge populating the buildings’ lower floors. The northern structure is now home to the Institute for Environmental Sustainability. Between the two taller structures is an atrium space that serves as the building’s “lawn” in the design team’s Jefferson analogy. It is a greenhouse and learning lab that will also supply food to the new dorm’s café.
The project boasts the largest geothermal heating and cooling system in the city. About 215,000 square feet spread across two acres, the predominantly low-rise complex is well-suited to geothermal; a higher density development wouldn’t be able to pull off the 15-year payback the system promises Loyola. LCD screens display temperatures in real time above several of the many pipes that send water through the building’s 91 geothermal wells, each 700 feet deep. As students and visitors traverse the lobby, they see the building’s pipework through several glass casings.
They also glimpse the base of a green wall meant to cover and shade the sophomore dorms that run along the lobby and greenhouse building’s east side. Thanks to tall ceilings, from which ring-shaped “modern chandeliers” hang, the street-level lounge also offers views of a green wall and an area for fruit trees next to the greenhouse space overhead.
New lab rooms outfitted with all-bamboo casings house Loyola’s Solutions to Environmental Problems program, which gathers students from diverse majors and asks them to solve an environmental problem on campus. Within sight of the new classrooms is the product of one of those classes: a small biodiesel refinery of sorts that converts campus fryer waste into enough fuel to offset 10 percent of the gas used by the university’s bus fleet. Homemade biodiesel will also run a boiler to heat the facility for a few days a year when the geothermal system is scaled back to allow underground heat to replenish.
Loyola’s biodiesel production is the only university-based program licensed by the federal government to sell its product. Filling only a fraction of its new home in the Institute for Environmental Sustainability’s new Clean Energy Lab, the biodiesel program will seek waste grease from other area universities in an attempt to increase output from 3,000 to 100,000 gallons per year. As with the building’s geothermal pipework, SCB invites visitors to inspect the biodiesel program’s guts. Brightly colored pipes and large windows open toward Sheridan Road and onto the Institute for Environmental Sustainability’s atrium. A lattice reaches up past labs and walls colored red, orange, and green for wayfinding. A small vegetable garden will grow at its base, while hop plants climb three stories to the building’s skylight.
SCB will measure the building’s performance during its first month of operation. The firm is hoping that the facility’s energy use comes in at more than 70 percent below ASHRAE standards.