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Tower's Greenspace Design Prompts Fears of Bird Crashes

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151 N. Franklin St.

DOWNTOWN — Trees and other green landscaping will be featured in an outdoor plaza and the indoor lobby of the 36-story mixed-use tower proposed for 151 N. Franklin St.

Architect John Ronan described the function of the multilevel public plazas planned for the building at Randolph and Franklin streets as "pulling that green notion into the base of our building."

But members of the Chicago Bird Collision Monitors are concerned that same feature will be appealing to migratory birds, leading them head on into what Ronan called the office building's "glazed lobby."

"Every year we pick up a couple thousand birds that have been injured or killed by hitting buildings, and it's due primarily to the transparent or reflective nature of the glass such as this," said Kelly Dougherty, a volunteer with the group. "Looking at similar buildings that I've picked up birds .. I would estimate this one's probably going to account for killing 100 to 200 migratory neo-tropical birds that fly through Chicago every migration season."

The bird-collision prevention group's website notes that "transparent lobbies with continuous interior/exterior landscaping [pose] a lethal hazard for birds that could not perceive a barrier between the inside and outside areas."

Dominic Adducci, representing the the John Buck Company which is developing the building, said the material it plans to use for the transparent, semi-reflective facade "is used widely in Europe, [and] apparently very successful in making birds aware it's there."

To utilize the Franklin Street-facing ground floor plaza and second-story "pocket park" that faces Randolph Street, developers said they hope to recruit a cafe and restaurant to fill the 10,000 square feet of available retail space.

Ronan noted the building will be green in other ways. The plan has earned a Gold LEED certification, and will offer just 34 parking spaces in a lower-level lot accessible off Couch Place, a reduction in the current number of parking spaces on the site. To compensate, a designated bike parking area abuts the car lot.

The tower will reach a maximum height of 600 feet and offer 825,000 square feet of rentable office space, all with 10-foot ceilings, according to the proposal.

Developers with the John Buck Company will apply for a planned development later this month, Adducci said, with construction starting in September 2014 and an opening date set two years later.

Ald. Brendan Reilly (42nd) noted at the end of the meeting that this was "the developer's preferred timeline," and was subject to community and city approvals that could delay construction.

If approved as proposed, the project would create 600 temporary jobs, Adducci said. He hopes as many as 3,600 full-time positions can be created by businesses that choose to locate in the building, he said.