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Streeterville high-rise design underwhelms neighborhood group

This rendering shows proposed building (foreground).

This rendering shows the proposed building (foreground).

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roeder reports

David Roeder reports on real estate 6:22 p.m. Thursdays on WBBM-AM (780). The reports are repeated at 10:22 p.m. Thursday and 7:22 a.m. Sunday.

Updated: June 21, 2011 12:20AM

Let’s say you’re a developer needing community support to build your next high-rise in Chicago. But the community, or at least its influential elements, thinks your architecture is a dud. What do you do?

The firm Related Midwest, one of Chicago’s top builders during the condo boom, faces that dilemma with property at 500 N. Lake Shore Drive. The block is on the well-traveled Illinois Street and Grand Avenue paths to and from Navy Pier.

Related formerly planned a luxury building on the site but got tired of waiting for the condo market to perk up. So it has shifted to a rental building and wants to change the design.

The new proposal calls for 45 stories with 500 units and a 400-car parking garage. It’s shorter than the building in the earlier plan but with more and smaller units and a more conventional unit layout.

And it’s not passing muster with the Streeterville Organization of Active Residents, said Gail Spreen, the chairwoman of its real estate review panel. She said Related’s architects at Solomon Cordwell Buenz produced a boring glass box that doesn’t do justice to its prominent site.

“This is the second best site in Streeterville,” she said, the first in her estimation being the forlorn Chicago Spire hole at 400 N. Lake Shore Drive. “Whatever gets built there will be seen forever. It’s disappointing that the design is so average.”

SOAR also has objections to a parking garage next to the building, arguing that it’s so big that it encourages traffic jams and potentially deadens street life.

Related President Curt Bailey declined to comment on Spreen’s critiques and held out hope his plan will get city support in current form. “We’ve got certainly letters of support and major support from a lot of the neighbors,” he said.

The proposal was listed for action by the Chicago Plan Commission at a meeting Thursday, an indication that city zoning authorities are on board. But downtown Ald. Brendan Reilly (42nd) said action will be deferred for at least a month as design issues are worked out.

“I actually think it’s an attractive building and it’s a far less aggressive proposal than what was approved under my predecessor,” Reilly said.

LET’S EAT: Boka Restaurant Group, owned by Kevin Boehm and Rob Katz, is due to open GT Fish & Oyster soon in 5,000 square feet at 531 N. Wells. It’s billed as a chef-driven seafood place. Marc Lifshin’s LG Development Group, known for residential and commercial work, is the general contractor.

DEAL DEAL: @properties Commercial brokered two deals involving the former spaces of the now-closed Marche and Opera restaurants. Owners of Old Town Social, 455 W. North, leased the old Marche space at 833 W. Randolph and are reported to be planning a “bohemian Euro” concept to open late this year.

A partnership bought the old Opera building at 1301 S. Wabash and wants to have an upscale sports bar there this spring. The owners include principals of the Pony Inn, a Blackhawks hangout at 1638 W. Belmont, and the Wildberry cafes in Libertyville and Schaumburg.

AUCTION ACTION: A rare opportunity is coming up to acquire 5 vacant acres near downtown. Diliberto Real Estate Services LLC plans a sealed bid auction of the property on the east bank of the Chicago River and running north from Roosevelt Road.

Frank Diliberto, president of the auction firm, said the site is zoned for 1,500 residences and about a half-million square feet for retail. The owner is Jos. Cacciatore & Co. Real Estate.

Bids are due to be open May 5, although Diliberto said the auction could be converted to open-outcry and scheduled May 15. Details are at

CALENDAR NOTE: “Reviving commercial real estate” is the topic of a panel planned for March 23 at the University Club of Chicago, 76 E. Monroe. Among the topics to be covered is a pending change in accounting standards that will force commercial tenants that are publicly traded companies to change how they report leasehold interests. Details are at

DOING THE DEALS: Central Park of Lisle I, an office building at 4225 Naperville Road in Lisle, completed leases of 71,000 square feet to Armour-Eckrich Meats LLC and 17,000 square feet to Farmers Insurance Exchange. The deals bring building occupancy to 92 percent. It is owned by a venture that includes White Oak Realty Partners LLC, Fulcrum Asset Advisors LLC and Angelo, Gordon & Co.

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