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Tower Proposed for 451 E. Grand Ave. Would Have 400 Apartments, 100 Condos

 Renderings from a public presentation of plans for 451 E. Grand Ave.
451 E. Grand Ave.
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STREETERVILLE — A limestone-base 67-story building with 400 apartments and 100 condominiums on the highest levels was pitched to a packed meeting of Streeterville residents Monday with two main selling points: a return to the "larger tradition" of masonry skyscrapers, and the free renovation of an underutilized park in the area.

Curt Bailey, president of the development team at Related Midwest, emphasized the value of the 1.7-acre park overhaul at the standing-room-only community meeting about the proposed building at 451 E. Grand Ave.

"The park, from the street level, it's not very inviting, not very friendly," he said. "It feels like there's nothing really to do there. We really think we need to do much better there."

To do that, Related Midwest has tapped Michael Van Valkenburgh and Associates, the landscape architecture firm that's working on the Bloomingdale Trail and Maggie Daley Park.

Laura Solano, principal with the firm, said the park would be modeled after Teardrop Park in New York and would have four main features: a dog run, a recessed mini-valley she called "lawn bowl," a "play bowl" area for kids with high-end equipment and a tree-filled "grove" area, which some residents said they were concerned would welcome crime.

Teardrop Park "is used every single day," Solano said. "Kids go there after school, there are events held on the weekends, it has become this very special place. That's what were aiming for here as well."

Solano called the current park "hard to love." Seated at Grand Avenue and Peshtigo Court, it's an underdeveloped lot with a large fenced-in dog run atop subterranean, 900-space parking structure.

The tower would dedicate 400 of those spaces for tenants of the tower, leaving 300 public spots per an agreement with the nearby AMC movie theater and 200 for the tenants of the adjacent Park View West residential building.

In addition to the need to win support from Streeterville residents, the project is also impeded by the existing restrictions that allow only for a 610-foot building with 232 units and a floor-area ratio of 302,000 — less than half of the dense, 740,000 floor-area ratio including in the plans presented Monday.

Bailey explained that exceeding the allotted building height and number of units for the property was necessary to fund the world-class park promised to neighbors.

"When we looked contextually at where this building was, alongside this park, we said that if we want to do something great here, we have to fix this park," Bailey said. "The park is financially a very heavy lift. To make the changes we want to, we have to build a larger building."

The 67-story tower repeatedly referred to by developers as "slender" was designed by Robert A.M. Stern Architects, and would be the city's first tower by the renowned international firm. The base of the building will be limestone, with precast concrete above street level.

Ground-level retail shops are a possibility, but Bailey said he hadn't spoken with any potential tenants, yet.

At the meeting Bailey praised the current real estate demand in Streeterville, saying he was confident the combination of apartments and condos on the upper floors would be snapped up. Some affordable housing units may be included in the plan.

While several residents lauded the building's design and called it an asset to the neighborhood, tenants of nearby buildings also voiced concerns during the post-presentation forum that the new tower would block their buildings' sight lines.

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