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  • August 5th, 2013
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As Seen In Chicago Real Estate Daily

Developer John O’Donnell unveiled his plan last night for a 53-story office tower on the west bank of the Chicago River, but he still must sign up an anchor tenant to start construction.

Ald. Brendan Reilly (42nd), who hosted the meeting, emphasized that it was the first of many public meetings regarding the riverfront site between Lake and Randolph streets. But the presentation to neighbors at the Hotel Allegro in the Loop was an important step, indicating the plan now has enough support from Mr. Reilly to move the process forward.

“We’ve essentially capitulated to everything he wanted,” Mr. O’Donnell said during the meeting.

In April, Mr. Reilly lashed out at an earlier version of Mr. O’Donnell’s plan, saying it should include public space along the river.

The proposal has been revised to include a park, a public amphitheater and a riverwalk covering about 75 percent of the site’s 2 acres, Mr. O’Donnell said.

In December, Mr. O’Donnell paid $12.5 million for a key portion of the development site at 150 N. Riverside Plaza. But the former executive with Chicago-based developer John Buck Co. has found navigating the proposal through City Hall as challenging as the office market. In addition to obtaining zoning, he must also negotiate a deal with the Emanuel administration to acquire a city-owned parcel adjacent to the West Loop land he already owns.

If he wins city approval, Mr. O’Donnell must still sign up key tenants before starting construction. Plans call for breaking ground by mid-2014, with the project taking 28 months to complete, he said.

Architect Goettsch Partners Inc.’s thin, wedge-like design of the lowest floors creates more open space on the narrow site, Mr. O’Donnell.

The tower must be constructed over train tracks that run through the site. Mr. O”Donnell said he has an agreement with Amtrak for air rights but declined to disclose the terms.

The 1.2 million-square-foot tower would feature a grand lobby with a ceiling that reaches more than 100 feet at its peak, he said. The building also is to have a white-tablecloth restaurant and café and parking for 81 cars, he said.

Coming out a of prolonged real estate downturn, there are more than a dozen plans to develop office towers in downtown Chicago, with Mr. O’Donnell’s among the largest and most ambitious.

So far, the only one under construction is at 444 W. Lake St., just north of Mr. O’Donnell’s site. The River Point project — a joint venture of Houston-based Hines Interests L.P., Montreal-based Ivanhoe Cambridge and entrepreneur Larry Levy — has commitments from two law firms that would fill about half of the 45-story tower.

Originally published on Chicago Real Estate Daily

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