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New site plan will dramatically transform skyline, River Walk and Streeterville

The two sister towers at 400 Lake Shore Drive proposed by Related Midwest and designed by architect David Childs with Skidmore, Owings & Merrill feature slender, cascading silhouettes designed to create breathtaking city-to-lake and lake-to-city vistas. | Rendering by Related Midwest

It may not be a 2,000-foot “spire,” but plans for the vacant lot at the mouth of the Chicago River — unveiled to the public Tuesday — will dramatically transform the Chicago skyline and the Streeterville neighborhood, developers and neighbors said.

Developer Related Midwest has announced plans to turn the 2.2-acre Chicago Spire site at 400 N. Lake Shore Drive into a two-tower residential complex, complete with a hotel, condos, an extension of the River Walk and a new park on the east side of Lake Shore Drive. The project is called 400 Lake Shore Drive.

The towers will “turn, pause and open up” to the lake, offering a dramatic view of downtown where Lake Michigan meets the Chicago River, architect David Childs of Skidmore, Owings & Merrill, said at Tuesday’s public meeting to weigh in on the project.

“We wanted to create a place that couldn’t be placed anywhere else,” Childs said. He also designed One World Trade Center in Manhattan. “It grows from the site.”

The south tower will stand 1,100 feet and will have a 175-room hotel on its lower floors, with 300 condo units on upper floors, said Curt Bailey, president of Related Midwest. The north tower will stand 850 feet tall and will have 550 rental units, he said.

A ground floor atrium will connect the two buildings. Space was purposefully left between the buildings so as to act as a “gateway” to the city from Lake Michigan, Childs said. A parking garage will be built below the ground.

Related Midwest will also contribute $10 million to the construction of DuSable Park, which will be located north of the river and east of Lake Shore Drive. The park will be connected to the west side of Lake Shore by an extension of the River Walk, which Related Midwest will also construct.

“We look forward to doing something great with this site,” Bailey said.

While most of those at Tuesday’s public meeting agreed that the towers will be a welcome addition to the skyline, some neighbors are not yet sure of it’s impact in Streeterville neighborhood.

There is the question of increased traffic on North East Water Street, although Related will build an entrance to its below-ground parking lot from lower Lake Shore Drive.

Butler Adams, who hosts boat tours on the river, said he is glad to see something come of the spire site. He said the project is good for the neighborhood and its design is worthy of the birthplace of the skyscraper, even if it wont be the tallest building in the country.

“I can’t wait to see the new skyline,” he said. “I’ve seen a lot of change, but I look forward to seeing this happen.”