JAHN, the Chicago-based firm led by Helmut Jahn and Francisco Gonzalez-Pulido, has unveiled renderings of a long-rumored project in their hometown's South Loop neighborhood. At 1,030 feet, the tower would be Chicago's fifth tallest—or, as Curbed Chicago points out, sixth if Studio Gang's Wanda Vista project is completed first. The 86-story JAHN project at 1000 S. Michigan Ave., whose renderings first popped up on the online forum Skyscraper Page, has not been formally presented to the public. According to Crain's Chicago Business the tower will contain 506 units featuring a mix of condo and rental properties. In the renderings the building dwarfs an adjacent 20-story residential high-rise with massing that widens as it ascends. (Read AN's Studio Visit with JAHN here.)
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JAHN (the firm formerly known as Murphy/Jahn) has projects all over the world, but a tower project announced Thursday by Crain's Chicago Business' Dennis Rodkin is on a site in the Chicago-based firm's backyard. Though not confirmed by the architects, news of a possible JAHN project at 1000 South Michigan Avenue (now a surface parking lot) has some local design and real estate observers abuzz. Principal Helmut Jahn is known around the world for highly engineered, structurally expressive towers and complexes that prize performance over prettiness. The 75-year-old German-American has earned numerous lifetime achievement awards and other accolades, and his high profile would likely lend some “starchitect” factor to any building that his firm might deliver on the South Loop site. His protege Francisco Gonzalez-Pulido, with whom he co-runs the firm, is also sought-after for designs like Las Vegas' Veer Towers, which boast bright yellow, fritted glass facades and an unusual leaning profile. An area plan currently has a height limit of 35 stories, but Rodkin quotes Dennis McLendon, development and planning director of community group South Loop Neighbors, who thinks that won't apply in the event that the new project is confirmed:
"I don't have a lot of confidence that the current plan commission would observe a plan that was adopted back in 2004," he said. Now a surface parking lot, the site is one of only two gaps in the continuous 1.3-mile cliff wall along the west side of Michigan Avenue between Randolph Street and Roosevelt Road. In the early-2000s condo boom, it was the proposed site of a 40-story condominium tower, but developer Warren Barr was hit with a foreclosure suit and lost the property to First American Bank, which still owns it. First American representatives did not respond to requests for comment.If it happens, the project would hardly be the firm's first in their hometown. JAHN (mostly under their prior moniker, Murphy/Jahn) designed the United Airlines terminal at O'Hare and the Ogilvie Metra station downtown, as well as the State of Illinois Center (the Thompson Center), 600 N. Fairbanks, 1 S. Wacker Dr., and others. Yet lately most of the firm's high-profile work has been abroad.
Developers tap Perkins + Will principal to help redevelop site adjacent to Bertrand Goldberg’s River City
Plans for 2,700 new homes along the Chicago River have some neighbors and realtors calling a long-vacant lot near the Willis Tower by a new name. “River South” refers to a few sites, among them: a 7.3-acre riverside parcel between Harrison Street and the River City condo complex designed by Bertrand Goldberg. As Crain's Chicago Business reports, that's where developers CMK and Lend Lease are planning five towers with nearly 2,700 residential units, anchored by a 47-story building with 626 units. The developers tapped Perkins + Will principal Ralph Johnson to draft a master plan for the area. Whether or not the River South moniker sticks, the area has generated renewed interest from real estate watchers. Two other Chicago developers, D2 Realty and Phoenix Development Partners, have previously hinted at a large, mixed-use development on a 1.6 acre-parcel nearby. According to Crain's, developer Related Midwest is in talks to develop another 62-acre property at Roosevelt Road and the Chicago River.
Chicago's tallest building may be on the market, and it might even have a buyer. Crain's Chicago Business reporter Ryan Ori said Tuesday that the owners of the Willis Tower have hired Eastdil Secured to seek a sale of the 110-story tower. Real estate mogul Joseph Chetrit, developer Joseph Moinian and Skokie-based American Landmark Properties could fetch as much as $1.5 billion—a sum that would dwarf some of the eye-popping price tags from 2014. The current owners also broke records when they bought the tower in 2004 for $840 million. It's another sign of the real estate resurgence for downtown properties. Consider the $850 million deal to nab 300 North LaSalle Street, or the record-breaking sale of OneEleven. Completed in 1973 as the Sears Tower, the building was the world’s tallest for 23 years until Kuala Lumpur's Petronas Towers outreached Sears by a hair. Willis got its current name in 2009 as part of an agreement with London-based insurance broker Willis Group Holdings, though many Chicagoans steadfastly refer to it by its original name. Designed by Bruce Graham and Fazlur Rahman Khan of Skidmore, Owings & Merrill, the building's powerful silhouette and distinctive expression of its bundled-tube structural system have made it a defining feature of the Chicago skyline. Willis is currently 84 percent leased. Its two largest tenants are United Airlines and law firm Schiff Hardin, who both have their corporate headquarters there. If the deal goes down, future owners would likely explore ways to lease new space—occupancy has risen in recent years as downtown neighborhoods have begun to attract more jobs and residents.
This week an already roiling real estate market in Chicago's West Loop got hotter still. The latest entrant is a $400 million mixed-use tower designed by Goettsch Partners—a 350-room, four-star hotel beneath about 600,000 square feet of offices that will surely stoke the continued evolution of the area from post-industrial grittiness into a sleek, high-rent hub for technology companies and haute cuisine. Crain's Chicago Business reported Florida-based developer Joseph Mizrachi will further thicken an already competitive field of downtown office space, building on his 2012 acquisition of a 1.1 million-square-foot office tower at 540 West Madison Street. His group, Third Millennium Partners, hopes to start work by mid-2015 on a 1.2 million-square-foot building just to the west, at 590 West Madison Street. Goettsch Partners' design is restrained, concealing its luxury hotel rooms and undoubtedly high-tech offices in tranquil planes of glass, scored with white mullions that stripe the building's bifurcated mass vertically.
As for the crowded market, Crain's says Mizrachi enjoys an advantage over the competition:
Because the foundation already was poured for the new building years ago when a second office tower was planned, the new tower can be built in as little as 20 months, giving Mizrachi's plan an advantage over some competitors, [J.F. McKinney & Associates Executive Vice President Mark] Gunderson said. Work could begin with as little as 200,000 square feet of office space leased in advance, he said.It also might compete by offering office rents slightly lower than its neighbors, which include 52 and 53 story towers from developers Hines Interests and John O'Donnell.
Crain’s Chicago Business asks a good question: “Is it finally a good time to be an architect?” The story, by Micah Maidenberg, picks up on an encouraging trend in the architecture billings index. Both nationally and in the Midwest, architecture billings are back above 50, the threshold that denotes growth. In 2008, both tanked to about 35. During that time the number of architects in Chicago also dropped 33 percent, from 9,800 to 6,600 at the lowest point in March 2011. That's slightly higher than the 31 percent drop nationally. It has since risen above 7,000. Average base pay for starting architects, however, has mirrored another, less encouraging national trend: wage stagnation. Entry-level architects in metro Chicago made 3.7 percent less in 2011 than in 2008. Experienced architects saw their salaries rise 9 percent on average over that time period.