Next in our “Dead by Design” series of cancelled Chicago supertowers, we have a 112-story tower originally planned for 7 S Dearborn Avenue in The Loop. The mixed-use skyscraper would have measured 1,567 feet to its roof, marking what would have been its official height. However, the structure would have also been accompanied by three 433-foot-tall antennas that would have brought its pinnacle height to 2,000 feet, just one foot higher than last week’s Miglin-Beitler Skyneedle.
First announced in 1999 by Scott Toberman, CEO of European-American Realty, the tower would have replaced the First Federal Building, an 18-story office building that was demolished the same year. This classical structure was originally designed by Holabird & Roche and completed in 1902, where it held the Chicago Tribune’s headquarters for the next 23 years.
The scope of the replacement included ground-level retail and 11 floors of parking in its lowermost section. Above would be 32 floors of office space totaling 765,000 square feet, followed by 43 floors of residential condos. The remaining floors would have been devoted to communications facilities to accompany the above antennas.
Skidmore, Owings & Merrill was behind the design, made up of a telescoping massing of rounded rectangular segments that would have been clad in a glass curtain wall facade. To account for its smaller floor plates despite its soaring height, the tower made use of a stayed-mast structural system that employed multi-story trusses to link the perimeter columns to the central core. These perimeter columns would have been set back from the outer windows in order to maximize light and views.
Chicago’s City Council had approved of the developer’s plans in September 1999. Shortly after, European-American realty struggled to find financing, leading to a cascade of effects that would lock in the project’s fate. In April 2000, media companies that had agreed to use the antennas exited their agreements. Subsequently, Toberman defaulted on the site’s $22 million mortgage payment and returned the parcel’s deed to the lender’s representative Banque Worms Capital Corp.
In a predictable fashion, the saga of what could have been would lead to a much more modest outcome. Hines ultimately developed the property, constructing a 571-foot-tall office building under the address One South Dearborn. Envisioned by DeStefano Keating Partners, the new design would incorporate its own elegant set of architectural features, though subdued by its comparatively paltry height. Construction of One South Dearborn would have reached completion in 2005.