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11 Amazing Time-Lapse Views of Chicago Show How City is Reaching for the Stars

Chicago is one of those cities that never cease to evolve, grow and impress, whether in terms of economic opportunities, infrastructure, or new construction. The residential and commercial development that has taken over the city in recent years has reshaped Chicago’s vibe and skyline, with new architectural wonders popping up all across the metro area.

The Second City may have lost the skyscraper war against New York City but it is still home to seven of the top 20 tallest buildings in the United States, and more are being built. Parking lots, warehouses, former industrial lots, and dilapidated structures have been given new life and turned into vibrant apartment communities, condo buildings, and sparkling office towers – all striving to meet the increased demand for city living. These types of urban infill have greatly contributed to the revitalization of the city’s neighborhoods, with improved transportation options, cohesive live-shop-work-play environments, and an expanding job market.

Want to see how much the city has really changed in recent times? Here are some of the most interesting developments, completed sometime over the last 8 years.

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#1. River North Grows Taller

Not surprisingly, Chicago’s Downtown continues to attract most of the action. Two impressive buildings added value and variety to the bustling River North neighborhood, one a sparkling office high-rise at 353 N. Clark St., the other a luxury apartment tower at 71 W Hubbard St.

Built in 2009, 353 North Clark was awarded LEED Gold CS and incorporates several pro-sustainability features including the reclaiming of a brownfield site, green roofs, rainwater capture, and advanced HVAC and lighting controls. Lohan Anderson served as project architect. The 46-story tower sold for $715 million in 2014 to Chicago-based real estate investment manager Heitman LLC. The seller, Tishman Speyer, had acquired the glass-clad office tower from a venture of Mesirow Financial, one of its developers, for $385 million in 2010.

The 50-story, LEED Gold-certified AMLI River North apartment building was completed in 2013. It boasts an unparalleled location, in the heart of the River North neighborhood, just a few blocks from the CTA Grand-Redline, in close proximity to great shopping and dining destinations.

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#2. Ultra-Luxury Apartment Homes Add More Class to the Loop

What was just a few years ago a distressed property along Chicago’s riverfront has now evolved into one of the most coveted apartment towers in the Loop. OneEleven, a new 504-unit luxury apartment building at 111 West Wacker Drive, has a long, intricate history. Originally envisioned as a hotel-and-condo-project, the building was started in 2006 and eventually completed in 2014, after it was acquired by Related Real Estate Recovery Fund. It then changed hands again for $328 million. The new owner, Heitman, paid approximately $651,000 per unit, a price that set a record for apartment buildings in Chicago, according to Commercial Property Executive.


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#3. South Loop’s Upscale Condos Gain Stature

Chicago’s South Loop is undergoing a major transformation amid a development and investment boom that’s pushing up real estate prices in the neighborhood.

Back in 2007, cranes ruled the skies on South Michigan Avenue. By 2014, the area was brimming with energy as several new properties took the skyline to new heights. The second tallest all-residential building in Chicago, One Museum Park, was completed in 2009, joining other impressive condo high-rises such as Michigan Avenue Tower II, The Grant, and 1400 Museum Park.


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#4. Spotlight on New Urbanism: Convenience, Luxurious Amenities, Sweeping Views

Luxury is the word that best describes everything about The Grant, a 54-story condo building at 1201 S. Prairie. Formerly known as One Museum Park West, the property promises best-in-class urban living, including exceptional design, high-end amenities and stylish interiors. Dramatic views through floor-to-ceiling windows offer panoramas of Lake Michigan, Grant Park, Michigan Avenue, and Soldier Field. Chicago developer Related Midwest purchased the asset as part of a larger acquisition package in 2012, along with Adler Place at 1629 S. Prairie and Harbor View at 1901 S. Calumet.

One Museum Park, a 62-story building at 1211 S. Prairie Ave., offers stunning residences with panoramic views of Grant Park and the Museum Campus.


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#5. Hospitality Thrives in the Loop

As a favorite destination for both Chicagoans in search of bustling city life as well as tourists seeking new adventures, the Loop continues to attract major hospitality developers. More than 2,200 hotel rooms in nine buildings are expected to be finalized in the central business district in 2015, as reported by Crain’s.

One of the most prominent hotels proudly standing in the heart of Chicago’s theater district is theWit Hotel. It was opened in 2009, boasting a great location on the corner of State St. and Lake St., in close proximity to Millennium Park as well as Michigan Avenue shopping.


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#6. 235 Van Buren Adds Contemporary Style to Downtown Chicago

Combining modern unit designs with quirky box balconies and an enviable location in the heart of Chicago’s Loop, the 47-story condo building at Van Buren and Franklin Streets is truly unique. Built in 2010, 235 Van Buren offers 714 residential units, a 570-spot parking garage, as well as approximately 10,000 sq. ft. of retail space located on the building’s first two floors.


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#7. River North Boasts New, Sparkling Office Towers

The River North district is not short of gleaming office developments. Among a series of innovative business centers, 300 North LaSalle offers 1.3M sq. ft. of premium office space. Located on the north bank of the Chicago River, between the River North district and the CBD, the tower is clad in richly articulated glass and stainless steel, maximizing the introduction of daylight and minimizing solar gain. The LEED Platinum Certified office building sold in 2014 to Newport Beach, CA – based Irvine Company for $850 million.


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#8. Awe-Inspiring Views Now Available to Streeterville Renters

Chicago’s Streeterville holds la crème-de-la-crème of urban living. Its state-of-the-art skyscrapers blend perfectly with its quaint low-rise buildings sheltering top-of-the-line retail outlets, historic residences, and cultural venues. One of the finest examples of high-end city living, 500 Lake Shore Drive features exquisite amenities such as a rooftop pool, an entertainment suite, and a fitness center. Plus, it has several “green” attributes and is a 100% smoke-free environment. The 47-story glass tower was awarded LEED Gold Certification for its efforts in sustainable design and construction.


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#9. Lakeshore East Holds Several of the Tallest Buildings in Chi-Town

The tallest building in Magellan Development Group’s Lakeshore East and the tenth tallest building in Chicago, Aqua is also the tallest building in the world to be designed by a woman. Towering over 80 stories, Aqua is designed by Jeanne Gang, principal and founder of Studio Gang Architects. The property includes a mix of apartments, condominiums, parking, offices, and hotel space, as well as one of Chicago’s largest green roofs. Aqua Apartments come with premium amenities and finishes, including the wave-like balconies that give the building its unique appeal.


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#10. Impeccable Views and Futuristic Design Make Trump Tower Sparkle among River North’s Skyscrapers

River North’s impressive skyline has been further enhanced with the appearance of the Trump International Hotel & Tower in 2009. Designed by Skidmore, Owings, and Merrill LLP, the 92-story structure is the second-tallest building in Chicago. It features 486 condominium residences, 339 hotel rooms, and 20,000 square feet of function space.


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#11. The Gold Coast Holds Strong to its Reputation as Chicago’s Premier Place to Live

In real estate everything is about location, and the Gold Coast has it. Investor interest in the area remains strong, with developers seeking to capitalize on the rising demand for both commercial and residential space.

Among the most recent additions to the neighborhood, 10 East Delaware shines out as a superb community catering to the most exclusive tastes. Designed by architect Lucien Lagrange, this boutique building features a collection of 121 private residences with amenities such as a rooftop garden terrace and outdoor swimming pool with skyline views, state-of-the-art fitness center, and a private owners club with full kitchen and fireplace.

The area’s lodging scene has also seen a few changes, including the re-branding and revamping of the Elysian Hotel Chicago as a Waldorf Astoria in 2012. The hotel is housed in a 60-floor building and was initially opened in December 2009.

2009 has seen some big changes on the Gold Coast retail front as well, with Gensler-designed Barneys New York opening at 1-15 East Oak Street. The 6-story, 94,600-square-foot department store was acquired by New York-based Thor Equities LLC in 2013 for $154 million. 1-15 East Oak Street also quarters a Citibank retail branch.


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As for future development, the prospects are bright. One of the most anticipated projects that will redefine Chicago’s Southeast lakefront and lead the way to a greener, better Chicago, is to be built on a site that was once America’s largest steel mill – the U.S. Steel South Works plant. A joint venture between McCaffery Interests and United States Steel Corporation, the 600-acre Chicago Lakeside Development includes plans for a connected and accessible community, next-generation infrastructure, innovative architecture, all surrounded by a vibrant mix of residential, retail, and commercial spaces, a new high school, 125 acres of beautifully landscaped open space/parks with bike paths, and a 1,500-slip boat marina. The $4 billion megaproject will take an estimated 25-45 years to complete.

McCaffery Interests is behind many of Chi-Town’s successful projects, including The Roosevelt Collection, a 1.3 million-square-foot mixed-use development located in the heart of Chicago’s South Loop. The community includes 391,000 sq. ft. of retail, 342 residential units, and three levels of parking with 1,500 spaces.

Amalia Otet
Amalia Otet is an online content developer and creative writer for RENTCafé. She loves all things real estate and strives to live beautifully, one green step at a time.

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