Sunday, March 30, 2014

Abandoned Building To Luxury Tower: 111 West Wacker Sikorsky's towards completion

click images for larger view
Unloaded, the Sikorsky S-64 Skycrane helicopter looks a bit like a mutant orange insect:  big head, long spine, spiky tail, no body.  The S-64 is a “heavy-lift” helicopter, meaning it can carry up 20,000 pounds of payload hung from that taut spine - everything from cargo to a 2,650 gallon tank to hold retardant for fighting brush fires.

A Sikorsky S-64 put in a very noisy appearance along the Chicago river Saturday.  There were some last bits of metal to be hauled up to the roof of 111 West Wacker.  The building was topped out last October, the tall red crane that had clung to its full height dismantled the following month.  So if it was too big for the freight elevator, bring in the copter.
The Clark Street bridge was closed off as trucks brought in the parts and crews attached them to long ropes dropped from the S-64 for the careful trip to the roof.

The airlift was kind of an impromptu celebration of one of the more remarkable turnarounds in Chicago construction history.  111 West Wacker started out all the way back in 2006 as Waterview, an 80-story tower combining a four-star Shangri-La Hotel with luxury condos.  The projects architects/engineers - Teng and Associates - made the fatal mistake of deciding to also be the developer.  Bad move.  Construction halted when continuing financing failed to materialize and checks stopped clearing, and the 2008 economic crash sent the structure into what seemed to be an game-ending code blue, leaving behind bare concrete bones truncated at the 25th floor.
Waterview became the cautionary eyesore on the river, exposed and decaying, year and year.  Then, in 2011, the development firm Related Midwest signed a letter of intent to acquire the site and the stub structure  for somewhere around $26 million.  The hotel was cut, the tower shortened to a 60 stories, and a second groundbreaking ceremony was held in November of 2012 - on the 28th floor.

Although the company has also recently completed a new apartment tower at 500 North Lake Shore Drive, Related Midwest is kind of the hermit crab of Chicago development. They've been assigned to develop a plan for the historic Lathrop Homes public housing site.   In addition to 111 West Wacker, Related took on three failed condo buildings in the Central Station development designed by Pappageorge Haymes, with all the buildings rebranded.  Museum Park Place 2 became Harbor View, One Museum Park West became The Grant, and 1600 Museum Park, the most irremediably lunkish of the designs, rechristened Adler Place.
The Adler
Once Related took over Wateview, they renamed it 111 West Wacker and handed the design over to New York-based architects Handel Architects, whose large-scale work can be found across the U.S.,and in Asia and the Middle East.  Handel dumped the castellated crown Teng Associates had designed for their taller tower in favor of  sculpting the redesigned building with a “recessed glass ribbon” to carve up the curtain wall into “a series of interlocking blocks.”
845 North State at Chestnut, image via Curbed Chicago
Incising the curtain wall to break up the monotony of a tower's facade seems to be on its way to becoming the new cliche in high-rise construction.  It's already been appropriated by Solomon Cordwell Bunez for their new residential tower rising at 845 North State, which also incorporates another trendy feature from bKL's GEMS World Academy at Lakeshore East -  vertical strips to articulate the facade . . .
GEMS World Academy - photograph: Bob Johnson
. . . although while the strips at GEMS are crazy-quilt colorful, those at 845 North State are desaturated to a less punchy grayscale.
The plywood strip along the west facade at 111 West Wacker . . .
 . . . still needs to be zipped up with glass, but the curtain wall is finally wrapping around the concrete honeycomb of the original 25-story base that remained bare even as the shiny tower rose above it.
 “It's not perfect”, to pre-empt Blair's usual phrase, but 111 West Wacker is shaping up to be a striking - if unadventurous - addition to the Chicago river skywall.

Read More:

Waterview Has Risen From the Grave!
The Three Red Cranes of 111 West Wacker

111 West Wacker's Red Crane Flies the Coop

Cranes (No) Chicago Business


Anonymous said...

more than anything it's just such a shame the original tower and design, topping out at just over 1,000 feet, if memory serves, never got completely off the ground. it would have made a striking counterpoint to the rather turgid trump tower to the north.

Anonymous said...

This building and the SCB buildings mention are what I call large scale Greek Key architecture. It's really not as interesting as the architects think.

Matt Maldre said...

From now on, I will call this building "Tetris Tower." All Chicagoans are encouraged to do likewise.

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