Next in our procession of unbuilt Chicago skyscrapers is the Waldorf-Astoria Hotel and Residence Tower, a 107-story supertall that would have been located along North Park Drive, less than a block from the river in Streeterville. Compared to existing Chicago structures, if built, the mixed-use project would have been the third tallest in the city at 1,265 feet. More broadly, if it were built at the time of its proposal in 2007, it would have been the seventh tallest in the world. The Prime Group in partnership with Fordham Co. had planned for a three-year construction timeline starting in 2009 and wrapping up in 2012.
Programming had called for a 325-key Waldorf-Astoria hotel on the first 31 floors, topped by 300 condominiums from the 32nd to 100th floors. There would have been an additional club lounge and restaurant capping the occupiable floors at the 101st level. The narrow, sleek design by DeStefano & Partners invokes a twisting massing that somewhat resembles the silhouette of the 1,614-foot Shanghai World Financial Center. The outer facade would have utilized a reflective curtain wall glazing spanning its full height.
Given that 80 percent of the tower’s expected revenue was to come from the condominium portion as noted in a 2007 article by the Wall Street Journal, the 2008 Housing Crisis ultimately made the plans economically untenable. Beginning in 2012, the scope narrowed to a more modest 53-story mixed-use tower designed by Solomon Cordwell Buenz and officially addressed as 455 N Park Drive. Less than half the height of its predecessor, the 590-foot skyscraper would yield a 400-key Loews hotel and 398 residential apartments under the separate name “North Water Apartments.” As for the Waldorf Astoria Chicago, the hotel company would instead expand to a separate 60-story tower formerly known as The Elysian and designed by Lucien Lagrange Studio. This 686-foot neoclassical building further in the Rush & Devision area would complete construction in 2009 and reopen as the Waldorf Astoria in 2012.
The present-day 455 N Park Drive was completed in 2015 at a construction cost of $200 million, less than a third of the $610 million price tag anticipated for the canceled supertall. The demise of this iconic project is a salient example of Streeterville’s roller coaster history of development proposals. While there have been a myriad of visions never fully coming to fruition, the neighborhood still has plenty of prime parcels awaiting for what could result in even taller edifices in future economic cycles.