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Bank of America to anchor riverfront office tower

Bank of America will anchor a new high-rise going up along the Chicago River at 110 N. Wacker Driver. | Artist's rendering

Bank of America will be the anchor tenant of a new 51-story office tower along the Chicago River that will generate $15.6 million for the share-the-wealth fund created to rebuild struggling neighborhood commercial corridors.

“Without a doubt, it will be another architectural jewel on the river for people on the boat tour and around to both appreciate and admire,” Mayor Rahm Emanuel said Thursday in the lobby of the seven-story building at 110 N. Wacker that will soon be demolished to make way for the new tower.

In late March, the City Council’s Zoning Committee set the stage for the record contribution by approving plans for the 1.35 million-square-foot building at 110 N. Wacker. It will be built by a partnership between Riverside Investment and Development and the Howard Hughes Corp.

In exchange for the right to double square footage on a site now occupied by a seven-story building, developers agreed to a contribution that would quintuple the size of Emanuel’s Neighborhood Opportunity Fund.

John O’Donnell, CEO of Riverside Investment, said then that he was “talking to a number of tenants” and was in “advanced discussions with some of them.” But he said the negotiations had not been finalized and that construction would not proceed until an anchor tenant was secured.

Now, Bank of America has signed an agreement to be that anchor tenant. That’s expected to pave the way for construction to begin next spring and be completed in 2020.

According to the mayor’s office, the agreement calls for the bank to lease 500,000 square feet of space, more than a third of the new building on a parcel O’Donnell called the “most prominent under-developed site” left in Chicago.

Emanuel created the Neighborhood Opportunity Fund to rebuild neighborhood commercial corridors with contributions from developers allowed to build bigger and taller downtown projects.

“What we’re paying for is 711,680 square feet of additional [space], which allows us to build the type of building that we want to build. . . . which is an 800-foot tower, which will be used for office and retail,” Jack George, an attorney representing Riverside Investment, told the Zoning Committee in late March.

The project’s “density payments” would go to the Neighborhood Opportunity Fund, which was launched earlier this year with $4 million in seed money generated by more than a dozen downtown projects.

Another $3.8 million in developer payments would be divided equally between a local improvement fund and a citywide Adopt-a-Landmark fund, officials said.

The Neighborhood Opportunity Fund is central to Emanuel’s efforts to win back the trust of African-American voters who elected and re-elected him and counter the perception that his development efforts have been downtown-centric.

“This, I consider an example of the win-win strategy we have in the city Chicago, allowing us to ensure that there is economic growth throughout the city in all parts,” Emanuel said.

“As things happen in our Central Business District, our neighborhood economy and small businesses also have an opportunity to literally, financially participate in that growth and the strength that goes on with that.”

As for the project itself, Ald. Brendan Reilly (42nd) has called it a boon to the downtown area in general and to the riverwalk in particular.

“This project, 110 N. Wacker, represents the latest and greatest opportunity along the Chicago River to improve this site from a seven-story structure to a much higher and better use at a very prominent location here in the Central Business District,” Reilly said.

“The architects have done a beautiful job designing this 51-story building to allow for 1.35 million square feet of office space. We also negotiated that one half of the development site be re-dedicated to public open green space that can be enjoyed by office workers, residents and visitors to the city of Chicago.”