McPier picks architect for DePaul arena
BY DAVID ROEDER Staff Reporter September 23, 2013 2:14PM
Rendering of the planned 10,000-seat arena that will play host to large-scale meetings and DePaul University basketball. Connecticut-based Pelli Clarke Pelli Architects has been tapped as the design firm for the job.
Updated: October 25, 2013 6:15AM
The board that runs McCormick Place selected the firm Pelli Clarke Pelli Architects on Monday to design the planned 10,000-seat arena intended to host large-scale meetings and DePaul University basketball.
The Metropolitan Pier and Exposition Authority, commonly called McPier, approved a $7.2 million contract for Connecticut-based Pelli, a firm that is internationally known for such work as the Petronas Towers in Malaysia. Pelli also has a working relationship with DePaul, having designed its theater school.
The firm produced a design with a sloping roof that includes skylights. The perimeter is supposed to accommodate restaurants and shops, while the below-ground arena floor would be visible to pedestrians on Cermak Road.
“We have designed a light, luminous event center that we hope will be a good neighbor and a dynamic expression of the events that it will house,” said Fred Clarke, senior principal of Pelli.
McPier officials said the design will be tweaked based on dealings with neighborhood groups, whose members have worried about how the arena and potential crowds will fit in. But they said the concept already addresses key concerns.
Jim Reilly, chief executive of McPier, said Pelli’s “innovative design provides a functional and flexible space that will make the event center a wonderful complement to the convention center.”
The sloping roof allows for lower support walls and avoids the standard sports stadium model of tall, dark walls along the street, Reilly said.
“You will be able to see into this building. From the inside, the sloping roof presents a very interesting design,” he said.
The planned $173 million facility, backed by an estimated $33 million in tax-increment financing and $70 million each from the convention authority and DePaul, is scheduled to open in the fall of 2016. The city subsidy is supposed to help with land acquisition and is part of a total $55 million in TIF money the city has pledged for the McCormick Place expansion of an entertainment district.
Those plans include two new hotels plus other businesses.
Reilly said that in its first year, he believes the arena can book 60 events, including conventions and concerts, and increase that total in later years.
The arena would be on the block bounded by Cermak, 21st Street, Prairie and Indiana — opposite McCormick Place West.
Pelli was one of six architectural firms that responded to a call for proposals. The firm’s application was backed by an advisory committee that included equal representation from McPier, the city and DePaul.