New Skyscraper Added to Chicago's Skyline in Uncertain Times for Downtown Commercial Uses

A riverfront revival was well underway in Chicago. Then the pandemic hit. How can a splashy new downtown commercial development expect to fare in Covid's world?

2 minute read

October 12, 2020, 7:00 AM PDT

By James Brasuell @CasualBrasuell

Chicago Construction

The construction site of the Bank of America Tower on N. Wacker Drive, picture in October 2018. | Google Streeview

The Bank of America Tower recently opened on the Chicago riverfront as the tallest new office building in the city in 30 years by topping out at 816 feet.

With Chicago's central business district (CBD) getting hammered during the pandemic, Blair Kamin offers three reasons to pause and take notice of the new building.

For one, the Bank of America Tower "represents a strong sign of confidence" in the CBD despite its current travails. For another reason, the building will add a $25 million boost in property tax revenue to a city government that is, similar to the CBD, suffering the effects of the economic downturn caused by the pandemic.

Finally, "The modernist design, a mix of bold structural drama, attractive public spaces and reflective-glass banality, will leave its mark on downtown long after the COVID-19 pandemic has passed," writes Kamin.

The new building is located on a site described by Kamin as high profile and transit oriented at 110 N. Wacker Drive. Prominently, the new building is the latest sign of how the Chicago River has become a focal point of civic and commercial life.

"Skyscrapers, like the neighboring Civic Opera Building at 20 N. Wacker, once turned their back on the polluted river. No more," writes Kamin.

A key question about the building's success still looms, however, given the current state of the economy and the large numbers of office workers staying home during the pandemic—whether by choice or by necessity of unemployment. The building's lead tenant, Bank of America, was expecting more than 2,000 employees to be working in the building. Currently, only 200 employees are reporting to the office.

Friday, October 9, 2020 in Chicago Tribune

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