Developers of Tribune Tower project have a long way to go, alderman says
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Downtown Ald. Brendan Reilly (42nd) said Thursday there’s a lot to like about an ambitious plan to build Chicago’s third-tallest building behind Tribune Tower and turn the newspaper’s iconic Michigan Ave. headquarters into condominiums, but developers have a long way to go.
Reilly stressed that there have been “many, many internal drafts” from the property owners — Golub & Co. of Chicago and Los Angeles-based CIM Group — and that the plans he has seen are “changing daily and still need a lot of work.”
“These initial plans . . . represent what the developer would love to have if his wish were to be granted. Then we work through it and negotiate. And I spend a lot of time getting feedback from the people I represent,” Reilly said.
“What’s clear is that the developer wants to construct a very tall, slender tower that would not introduce a lot of extra density to the neighborhood. It’s not really a terribly dense building,” he said. “It’s just a very large one.”
The Chicago Tribune reported this week that developers want to build a tower on the parking lot behind Tribune Tower that would rise to 1,388 feet. That would make it just one foot shorter than the hotel and condominium complex that bears the name of President Donald Trump.
The new tower would include 220 hotel rooms, 158 condos and 500 parking spaces. Trib Tower would be redeveloped with 165 residential units rising from a retail base.
On Thursday, Reilly confirmed those basic elements.
What he likes about the project is the plan to redevelop Tribune Tower into condos, which has been described as Phase One of the ambitious project.
“The way they’re treating the historic tower is pretty responsible. . . . Converting the old newspaper offices . . . into residential with some very attractive retail opportunities on the first two floors of the building. And they’re actually even retaining the old, historic additions that are not landmarked that run north of the landmarked tower on Michigan Ave. That will be considered a win by many of the historic preservation advocates,” Reilly said.
What the alderman doesn’t particularly like is the developer’s plan for the lobby of Tribune Tower.
“The developers preference would be for that to be closed off to the public and to be a benefit to future tenants. My preference — and I think many others — is that their historic, landmarked lobby be made available to the public certain hours of the day,” Reilly said.
Yet another bone of contention is the number of parking spaces developers plan. They want more. Reilly wants less. He also wants some public improvements to the streets around and below the project.
“My preference in helping manage traffic and leveraging public transit is to encourage developers to build less parking. That’s been considered sound transportation policy in big cities,” Reilly said.
“We need to take a look at the skin of the building . . . and get some feedback from stakeholders on that. How the loading and traffic circulate below grade on Lower Illinois and Lower Michigan,” he said. “Are there opportunities to upgrade all of that really dirty, poorly lit infrastructure and deliver a victory for the neighborhood? Should there be public open space in their plaza area? The list goes on and on.”
Reilly noted that, during his 10 years as alderman, “Not a single project has been delivered, built looking anything like it did when it was first proposed. That shows the process works.”
He expects this project to be no different.