John Ronan’s largest commission to date is climbing skyward in Chicago’s Loop. What will be the new CNA Center at 151 North Franklin Street is to rise 36 stories with 820,000 square feet of office space. The insurance giant is leaving 333 S. Wabash Avenue, the tower often referred to as “Big Red,” after 44 years. In an unconventional move, developer John Buck Company is building CNA Financial’s new home, and buying its old one. CNA will lease back its current space while waiting for its new building, and John Buck will redevelop it once CNA moves out. “The series of public plaza spaces addressing how the building hits the ground is very much the same,” says Ronan. The glass curtainwall has been simplified, however, with rounded edges reverting to right angles--par for the course when adhering to a strict pro-forma as the market around a project goes up and down. Aesthetically and programmatically little else has changed from conception to fruition—a coup for Ronan and a credit to the developer considering the more than two years it took to score an anchor tenant. Those interconnected plazas, Ronan’s favorite feature, exist to liberate the office worker from a rigid typology. Work can take on a different, more intuitive form in this more casual environment. And column-free corner offices, open floor spans, and 9.5-foot ceilings lend maximum flexibility for build-to-suit. Worker amenities are virtually unchanged and include two restaurants, a professional fitness center, three outdoor terraces, a conference facility, bike parking, and 34 executive parking stalls connected to the neighboring garage. The tower’s materiality is Ronan’s unblemished handiwork, from the elegant basalt-surfaced courtyard nestled into the building and segueing to entryway, the tower’s transparent skin, and screened sky garden that acts as a visor of greenery to onlookers in neighboring towers and at street level. One crucial characteristic that Ronan drove home is how the building’s compositional quality and engagement with the street exceeds the importance of vertical form. “This isn’t the tallest building on the block, so it’s not really about how it presents at the roofline,” he said. https://vimeo.com/118022698 https://vimeo.com/118022698
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Chicago's Harrington College of Design on Wednesday abruptly announced it will merge with Columbia College. Jim McCoy, Harrington's vice president of operations, told AN the school will no longer accept new students, but won't shut the door on its existing student body. “Everyone that's enrolled in Harrington, we will teach them out,” said McCoy. Students in the downtown college's associate, graduate, and bachelor programs will continue to take Harrington classes through August 2018—even students who took a semester off can finish their degrees, McCoy said. “We do not want to lock them out.” After the summer term, at which point Harrington will vacate its leased space in Chicago's Loop, students will attend class in facilities owned by Columbia College. Students who complete their degrees within about a year can request a diploma from Harrington, McCoy said, but bachelors finishing their degrees after that time will earn credentials from their new alma mater, Columbia College. McCoy said declining enrollment had put pressure on Harrington's administration to make the move now or face the possibility of shutting students out in a few years while they were still part-way through their academic programs. “It just became obvious,” McCoy said, “to get back to where it was financially stable would have taken years, and we felt this was in the best interest of the students.” Over the last five years McCoy estimated Harrington's enrollment has declined by 30–40 percent. He credits increasing competition, including from online programs, for the drop. But also to blame may be the college's select program offerings. For 84 years Harrington has offered highly specialized programs in graphic design, interior design, and photography. “Those are great fields. They will continue to be great fields,” said McCoy. But they could not sustain business at Harrington. Crain's Chicago Business contextualized the financial situation of Harrington's owner, the suburban Schaumburg-based, for-profit company Career Education:
Like many private education companies, Career Education has struggled with declining enrollment over the past few years and has been losing money. The company's 2014 revenue fell to $736.9 million from $834.1 million in the year prior, and its loss widened to $178.2 million from $164.3 million in 2013.Nationally enrollment has declined at for-profit universities, as well. “We're saddened,” said McCoy. “We are. We are happy to have been able to partner with Columbia College, and the underlying thing is we're not closing the door on our students.”
Developers Related completed its resurrection of 111 West Wacker Drive earlier this year, opening a luxury rental tower on the Chicago River where for years stood a ghostly concrete frame left over from a previous owner's attempt to build. The site was originally intended to house the first Shangri-La Hotel in the U.S. Four years after the recession halted construction with just 28 stories of structural skeleton complete, Related broke "ground" again, this time planning about 60 stories and about 500 luxury apartments. That redevelopment finished up this summer, opening in July. About 60 percent of the units have since been rented, said Related spokeswoman Tricia Van Horn. Renting is the only option for the 504 units, which range from 575-square-foot studios to three-bedroom, three-bath residences of 2,400 square feet. They cost anywhere from $2,395 to $11,500 a month for one of the four penthouses. OneEleven's segmented construction led to some interesting design adaptations. Having scaled back from pre-recession ambitions, the new owners stacked a smaller building on top of the 28-story base, bifurcating the floorplate and creating some interesting outdoor spaces where the Shangri-La plan juts out at the 28th floor. A recessed zig-zag in the facade references datum lines of nearby buildings and alludes to the unusual construction history while shielding the transition between its disjointed floorplans. Views from outdoor “Club OneEleven” down Clark Street are spectacular, if marred a bit by the building's neighbor to the south. But rather than cram lower south-facing floors with low-light apartments, Related conceded that space to back-of-house, building systems and some amenities. The luxury rentals are targeted to “people who are really interested in having an urban life,” Van Horn said, underscoring the building's singular position in this section of the Loop not typically known for residential developments. Take a look inside OneEleven with these photos by Scott Frances.
The Chicago Loop Alliance will wrap the Century Building at 202 S. State Street with a mural depicting a downtown overrun by giant sea creatures. “Float,” by St. Louis artist Noah MacMillan, calls to mind one of the many action movies in which outsized monsters have laid waste to the Loop in computer-generated battle royales of late. But these octopi and puffer fish appear to float along benignly. MacMillan’s surreal illustrations and designs have been featured in Smithsonian Magazine, the Washington Post and elsewhere. His 500-square-foot mural, which will be unveiled Tuesday July 16, was commissioned by building owners The General Services Administration, who asked MacMillan to ponder the relationship of citizens and their government. The 16-story building was designed by Holabird and Roche. Chicago Loop Alliance’s other recent programs include of the Pop-Up Art Loop, a year-long art gallery series, and The Gateway, a "people plaza" on State Street.