SOUTH LOOP — An architectural firm that proposed to create a roof that appears to undulate for a new DePaul arena was chosen as the designer of the project on Monday.
The Metropolitan Pier and Exposition Authority, also known as the McPier board, which oversees McCormick Place and Navy Pier, picked the Connecticut-based Pelli Clarke Pelli Architects to design the arena, based on a proposal for a 10,000-seat, glass-walled building with a wavy roof.
"We are picking a designer, not necessarily a finished design," said McPier Chief Executive Officer Jim Reilly. Yet, while changes are possible in the $173 million project, Reilly made clear it was the vision of the design that won approval over five other competitors.
"The dynamic yet elegant design created by Pelli Clarke Pelli for the event center fits perfectly into the fabric of the community," Reilly said. "The firm's innovative design provides a functional and flexible space that will make the event center a wonderful complement to the convention center."
Reilly added that the "distinction of this design" will support "our goal of attracting new business and serve as a catalyst to further enhance the economic vitality of the South Loop."
Mayor Rahm Emanuel first unveiled the proposed event center in May, saying it would serve as home to DePaul University's men's and women's basketball teams, as well as midsized conventions, concerts and Chicago Public Schools events, such as graduations and Public League basketball games.
DePaul and McPier will split $140 million in construction costs, with the city paying $33 million for land acquisition from Tax Increment Financing funds.
Pelli Clarke Pelli, which has previously designed the World Financial Center in New York City, the Petronas Towers in Malaysia and the International Finance Centre in Hong Kong, maintained the arena will only enhance Chicago's stature as an architecture center.
"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 architect Fred Clarke. "Its gently arching roof, visible from surrounding buildings and streets, will tie architecture to the image of DePaul basketball and McCormick Place events."
The Rev. Dennis Holtschneider, DePaul president, cheered the selection, as Pelli Clarke Pelli also designed the university's new $72 million Theater School building at Fullerton and Racine avenues.
"Pelli architects were terrific about addressing faculty input into the final design of DePaul's Theater School and in projecting an accurate budget," Holtschneider said. "I am confident Pelli Clarke Pelli will design an equally special events center that will make the South Loop proud."
Don Welsh, president of the Choose Chicago tourism agency, said the project is important for the local economy.
"To ensure Chicago remains the country's most customer-friendly business and sports destination, continued enhancements to our facilities are critical," Welsh said. "The addition of the event center will allow Chicago to offer a comprehensive and flexible package allowing for new jobs and tax revenues, which ultimately have a direct effect on our economic prosperity."