A year after its originally announced groundbreaking date, and after a year before that as an open, gaping pit, there's finally signs of actual construction on the site at northeast corner of State and Lake that's slated to become home to the Wit, a 26-story, 238 room hotel scheduled to be completed in 2009. Crain's Chicago Business reported in June that financing had been finalized for the $100 million project, from ECD Company, which is also building another hotel, the Aloft Millennium Park, at Balbo and Wabash, actually about six blocks south of the park, but who's counting? (It's replacing a long-lived surface parking lot next to the Blackstone, now Merle Reskin, Theater.)
The Wit's architect is Jackie Koo of Koo and Associates, an alumnus of Destefano + Partners, where Koo worked on a number of hotel and residential projects. Koo majored in philosophy from the U of C, and has a masters in architecture from UIC. (Thanks to the sleuths among the skyscraper enthusiasts on Skyscraper City for the info. )
Any architect who has the good sense to set up shop in John Wellborn Root's extraordinary Monadnock Building is off to a good start. The rendering of Koo's design for the Wit shows a rather mundane, servicey looking element to the north, abutting the Unitrin Building, and a thin spine, with a square notch at the top, on Lake Street to the east. (On one early depiction, these were colored black, but now appear a neutral concrete.) Between them is a shimmering glass curtain wall block spreading out from the corner, with a gold or yellow trimmed cutaway that incises a shallow triangular setback in the building's upper half. The trim doubles back on a diagonal that stretches down to a large central canopy over the State Street entrance.
Last year, ECD had talked about having trademarked Fritzel's, the name of the legendary Chicago restaurant that anchored the site for decades, declaring it was "planning to bring the iconic Chicago supper club back to State and Lake." I couldn't find any reference to this on the company's current web site, but I still wouldn't expect the Govnor's Pub/KFC/Taco Bell/Dunkin Donuts combine that occupied the former Fritzel's building until June of '05, when the city helpfully declared the whole thing unfit for habitation, to be coming back to serve the Wit's somewhat more upscale clientele.