Alta Roosevelt Coming to Big South Loop Dirt Lot

Alta Roosevelt May 2014

The Alta Roosevelt lot in the background, way back in May of 2014. I took this from the ShowPlace ICON at Roosevelt Collection. The construction equipment was from the early work on the British School.

They say a watched pot never boils.

Sadly, there is no other way to know when to put the pasta in the water.

But that’s a whole other issue. What’s important right now is that you know a watched lot of dust and dirt will one day be transformed. I know, because I’ve watched that lot. A lot.

At 801 South Financial Place in Chicago’s South Loop neighborhood, Alta Roosevelt has been given the all-clear to begin digging foundations for its future 496 apartments. As we’ve reported at Chicago Architecturethe 33-story tower will have studios, one-, two-, and three-bedroom units, and a whopping 348 parking spaces to go along with them.

According to the Chicago architecture firm with the outstanding name that designed Alta Roosevelt, Pappageorge Haymes Partners, the tower will feature “resort-like amenities.” These types of highfalutin perks are becoming the norm for new-construction apartments, not just for condominiums. Developers are looking to provide renters with as many creature comforts as possible, making today’s apartment projects look much more like fancy condo buildings. (You can make the argument that high-end amenities will help developers turn those apartments into condos somewhere down the road, but I’m not going there.)

What is a tad unusual for a new Chicago development the size of  Alta Roosevelt is that early indications and renderings show no retail space at ground level. Nor any other level, for that matter.

Alta Roosevelt Soil sampler

A soil-sampling rig parked in the dirt back in August.

I can’t say for sure why I’ve been so anxious to see something happen at the 801 South Financial lot. I’ve visited often, mostly to watch progress on the new British School that was completed in the space just to the south. It was on one of those visits that I saw a soil-sampling rig parked in the dirt, a sure sign that development was imminent. But that was way back in August. It took seven months to finally see some action going on here.

Any construction project I can get to and photograph before any work actually starts becomes an instant favorite for me. It let’s me chronicle the entire process, from dirt to done, with pictures all along the way. That means lots of trips to the South Loop. Like I needed another reason to visit…


The Lazy Photographer’s Guide to West Loop Construction

West Loop pan

A dreary-day panorama of the West Loop.

If there’s one thing you know about me, it’s probably my name. If there’s a second thing, it’s how much I love walking around Chicago snapping photos. But if there’s one thing you know about Chicago, it’s likely to be that not every day is conducive to long walks, where cold and wind can make it downright impossible to hold a camera steady.

As it turns out, construction workers are a much heartier lot, and they’re tasks continue despite conditions. Lucky for me, I have my perch atop the Chicago Architecture West Loop Bureau from which to keep tabs on a whole bunch of projects and developments around the West Loop neighborhood.

The Parker Fulton Market.

The Parker Fulton Market

The Parker Fulton Market, more than half-glassed, at 171 North Halsted Street.

The Parker Fulton Market is the most noticeable construction site from our windows, standing just to the north along the Kennedy Expressway. It’s a project of Shapack Partners, a West Loop-based development company doing wonderful work to transform the Fulton Market District from a meat-packing mecca into a lively urban neighborhood. Topped out in December, the 29-story tower brings 227 new apartments to the West Loop, and will include 9,000 square feet of retail space. Residents should start moving into the new digs in June.

Brooklyn Bowl

Brooklyn Bowl

Somewhere back there is Brooklyn Bowl, a new bowling alley/entertainment space at 832 West Fulton Market

Brooklyn Bowl finally got the ball rolling last year after an eternity in the planning stages. Besides a huge, fancy new bowling alley, the space will also include dining, retail, and even a live-music venue. Designed by OKW Architects, a West Loop-based firm, a key feature is the facade along Fulton Market and Morgan being preserved from the original warehouse. You can see a photo of it in the gallery below.

The Ace Hotel

Ace Hotel

The Ace Hotel, mostly hidden by a giant condo tower blocking my view. #NIMBY

The Ace Hotel will be a seven-story, 159-room hotel directly across North Morgan Street from the new Google building. It was designed by Chicago firm Grec Architects, and should be open sometime in 2017. Not that I’ll be able to tell; Skybridge blocks my view.

One South Halsted

One South Halsted

See the soil sampling rig at bottom left? That means construction on One South Halsted is imminent.

It’s not a construction site yet, but the soil-sampling rig you see in the photo above is a positive sign. It means the project known as One South Halsted has a very bright future. Finally. The 50-story tower was approved for the site, now a parking lot for the Crowne Plaza Hotel, three years ago. Designed by FitzGerald Associates Architects — yep, a West Loop firm! — One South Halsted will have about 500 apartment units. It will also include banquet halls, a business center, a pool, and a health club, all to be shared with Crowne Plaza guests.

Jane Byrne Interchange Flyover

Byrne Interchange

The Jane Byrne Interchange Flyover is a multi-stage construction project to restructure what Chicago sued to call the Circle Interchange. When finished, it will include a new ramp from the inbound Dan Ryan Expressway (pictured above) as well as a new ramp from the Dan Ryan onto Congress parkway into The Loop. Also included in the project is a brand new Halsted Street bridge, pictured below.

Halsted Bridge and Bryne interchange

On the right, work continues on the Halsted Street bridge. At center of frame, you can see how far the Ryan-to-Eisenhower ramp has progressed.

The United Center

United Center

The United Center is adding a 6-story office building next door.

Saying it’s in the West Loop is a bit of a stretch, but the United Center is adding a 6-story office building in the lot just to its east. In addition to housing employees of the U.C, Chicago Bulls, and Chicago Blackhawks, the structure will include a 10,000-square-foot retail store selling merchandise from both teams, and a large atrium open to the public. It’s expected to be open in time for the 2016-2017 NHL and NBA seasons.

Coming Attractions


River Point Loses an Appendage

River Point Craneless

One building sans crane, while its neighbor looks in the other direction and whistles softly to itself.

I don’t mean to stir up controversy here, but as I walked to the train Monday morning, I couldn’t help but notice something very different about River Point.

It wasn’t the glass; they’ve been adding that for months, so it’s not surprising to see it rising higher every week.

It wasn’t the arch facing the river; I’ve pointed that out before. Because it’s fascinating.

No, River Point is different because of what isn’t there. Much like Cheers after Frasier moved to Seattle, River Point has no Crane. That’s normal for a building that’s topped out, which River Point did way back in December. But look at the photo above and tell me that tower crane atop 150 North Riverside doesn’t look a wee bit guilty.

I’d check the Chicago River for a freshly-severed crane.

The Riverbend Three

The Riverbend Three now counts just one tower crane among them.

150 North Riverside, Chicago Construction, and The Quest For New Angles

The Riverbend Three from the Hancock

The Riverbend Three, from the 94th floor of The John Hancock Center.

Check the John Hancock Center off the list.

It took me far too long to return to 360 Chicago. Actually, this was my first visit since the renaming. And they’ve done a lot of work to the observation area on the 94th floor. The TILT thing (no, I did not), new benches and seating areas, a nice food counter.

But the views haven’t changed. I mean, they have, in as much as Chicago itself is constantly changing. It’s a great vantage point for all things northward in Chicago. Not so much for the South Loop. But that’s what the Sears Tower is for. Some day soon, the Aon Center will help out in that regard as well.


150 North Riverside Makes Headlines Again

150 N Riverside

Early Saturday morning, wood framing around the highest reach of the building’s core looked like they’d been through a rough night.

My beloved 150 North Riverside tower continues to make headlines in Chicago. And not in good ways.

As I’m sure you recall (and I’m even more sure I’ll never let you forget) 150 first became famous for sinking a construction barge on the Chicago River back in October of 2014. Then, a year and five days later, a minor structural collapse inside the core brought emergency vehicles to the site in droves.

150 North Wacker

I counted three such boarded-up holes in 150 North Wacker’s west facade.

Then, this past Friday, furious winds on as unseasonably warm February day sent construction materials airborne like so many whirling seeds from a maple tree. Vehicles and pedestrians were prohibited from using Wacker, Lake, and Randolph streets around the tower until late Saturday morning. Buildings along Wacker Drive were evacuated, and it appeared windows were broken in the west wall of 150 North Wacker.

150 North Riverside tower crane

Fortunately, the mighty tower crane stood firm.

Once the dust and wind and plywood settled, crews were able to get back into the tower and begin shoring up the scaffold and framing that had been ripped apart by the high winds, and work got back to normal. Or, as normal as can be for this already famous, though not half complete, office building.

150 N Riverside

Slightly disheveled, but still mighty pretty.


Riverbend Three Now One-Third More Complete

The Riverbend Three

The Riverbend Three on a beautiful, sunny Chicago morning.

It’s been a few months since I tried to make The Riverbend Three a thing. A lot has changed since then. Mostly, height. Let’s take a look at the progress on these three amigos.

150 N Riverside

150 North Riverside gleams in the morning sun from the Randolph Street bridge.

150 North Riverside is the baby of the group, though it’s hard to tell that lately. Designed by Chicago architecture firm Goettsch Partners, it will be a 54-story office tower when it opens in 2017. It will include a 1.5-acre park on its grounds. If that park is even a fraction as spectacular as this building has been during construction, it will immediately become one of the best places in Chicago to hang out. Imagine relaxing in the lawn and staring up at this beauty.

River Point

River Point. All glass and fancy arches. The best arches this side of the Mississippi.

River Point, which topped out in December, will some day be shorter than its neighbor across Lake Street, 150 North Riverside. The 52-story office tower rises 730 feet into the air above the Chicago River, 47 feet shy of 150’s ultimate height. This tower will also have a great 1.5-acre park at its base, but it’s those arches that will stand out most. Expect River Point’s grand opening early in 2017.

By the way, its address is 444 West Lake Street. At least for now. It is *not* 200 North Riverside Plaza.

Wold Point West

Wolf Point West, the first of three proposed towers at Wolf Point.

Wolf Point West is the only residential tower of The Riverbend Three. The 48-story building is 493 feet tall and boasts 509 apartments. It was designed by another Chicago firm, bKL Architecture. The first tenants started moving in back in January; none of them have invited me up to check out their views of the Chicago River and skyline. Rude. Still, it’s too soon to give up hope; there are two more towers slated for the space at Wolf Point.

River Point Gets Its Due

River Point

Looking straight up at River Point from Canal Street.

You might know by now, but I really love 150 North Riverside. I walk past it nearly every day, twice, yet rarely do I not stop and take pictures.

Yet just across Lake Street there grows a tower almost equally fascinating to watch, but for some reason I’m not nearly as vocal about it. And I don’t get why. It’s not that I haven’t noticed it; it has its own file on my laptop, a couple hundred pictures’ worth, with untold-dozens more still to be sorted. It’s time it got its own post.

River Point, at 444 West Lake Street, broke ground more than three years ago. They spent considerable time clawing at the dirt at Lake and Canal, getting the site ready to build. And build they have. The future 52-story office tower is well on the way to topping out, and naturally, I’ve taken a few photos as it takes over the riverbend.