Preview of Tribune Tower

Here’s what those Tribune Tower condos will look like

Colonel McCormick’s ornate wood-paneled office is no more, but there are private terraces with Gothic finials and parapets, a pool and arched windows.

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A top asking price of $7.6 million, two units whose outdoor terraces are walled in by fanciful Gothic finials and the dismantling of Colonel McCormick’s fabled 24th-floor office. Those are the takeaways from a grand opening of the redevelopment of Tribune Tower this morning of a model unit and sales gallery in a nearby building, whose 28th-floor windows frame an expansive view of the lavishly ornamented exterior of the 94-year-old tower, which the newspaper sold in 2016 and vacated in 2018.

Looking out at the tower and its three attached, lower buildings from the model, Lee Golub, principal of Chicago-based Golub & Co, which is partnered with CIM Group of Los Angeles on the redevelopment project, pointed out a few details that, from his perspective, made the project work. Leading them is “this iconic building in a setting you can’t get anywhere else in the city,” at Michigan Avenue’s riverfront heart, with plazas on both sides of the bridge and a humming retail and restaurant scene.

Then there’s the low-rise, eastern portion of the complex, which, when the developers bought the site for $240 million, spanned a full city block’s depth from north to south. That’s not conducive to narrow residential layouts that rely on sunshine coming in, but “we could remove the middle and make a courtyard” that begins at the third floor, Golub noted. The result is that two blocks of condos, one in the north piece of the old complex and one in the south, each are slender enough for residential use, and units in both will have balconies above the courtyard.

Third is the soaring Gothic architecture, which includes a crown-like tower, tall buttresses and finials as well as setbacks as the building goes up, all of which present opportunities to create handsome spaces both indoors and out. Terraces, either for an individual unit or for all residents of the building, top the old five-story WGN Radio building at Illinois Street and Michigan Avenue, run all the way around a 25th-floor amenity space in the tower, and look south from a fifth-floor “hip” of the tower.

Inside the condos, finishes include 8-foot-high doors, white oak flooring, quartzite kitchen island tops and backsplashes, and door frames and cabinetry throughout with vertical details that Jeanne Martini, sales director for the building’s 162 units, said will “emphasize the verticality,” much as the many ribs and buttresses of the landmark tower’s exterior do.

Most of the condos will have actual laundry rooms, not mere laundry closets with stackable machines, Martini said.

Prices, which the developers teased earlier this summer, run from the $700,000s to $7.6 million, Martini said. At the lower end, in the $700,000s, buyers will get a one-bedroom with roughly 1,100 square feet and a balcony, she said. Interested buyers have already been calling, she said, and meetings will start Aug. 29. The first move-ins for the building are planned for the end of 2020, she said.

Topping out at a mere $7.6 million is mildly surprising, given the penthouses offered at $10 million and higher at the building’s prime competitors for the upper-end buyer, Vista Tower and One Bennett Park, as well as the multiple sales at that level at now-complete No. 9 Walton. None of those buildings has an A-plus site like the Tribune Tower Residences.

“We went with our gut on pricing,” Golub said. He said higher per-unit prices might be in store at the planned super-tall tower proposed for the eastern edge of the site, where a surface-level parking lot is now. The proposed 1,422-foot tower, which would contain a combination of condominiums and hotel rooms, awaits approval from Ald. Brendan Reilly, 42nd, Golub said, but is substantially still the same as when it was unveiled in April 2018. No dates have been set for construction there, Golub said.

In the castle-like top of the Tribune’s former tower, seven floors will contain five condominiums—two-story units at bottom and top, with three single-story units in between. (Two stories above them are mechanical floors.) The three single-level condos are about 1,420 square feet each.

The highest-priced unit in the building, at $7.6 million, is the southern unit in a pair on the 22nd floor, each of which gets half of a terrace whose sides are walled by towering carved finials, creating a unique, picturesque outdoor space. The terraces, about 1,100 square feet, face east, although they’re unlikely to have more than slivers of lake view because of higher-rising buildings to the east.

For $7.5 million, a buyer would get a 24th-floor space that encompasses much of what was the baronial office of Col. Robert McCormick, the owner and publisher of the Chicago Tribune from the 1920s through 1955.

The McCormick office’s richly paneled walls, ornamental plaster ceilings and hefty fireplace have all been removed, Golub said today, to make way for new mechanicals and utilities. The paneling and fireplace are being reused in a third-floor amenity space. “That will give everyone a piece of the McCormick history,” Martini said. The ceiling plaster could not be reused, Golub said, but the barrel-vaulted ceiling in one part of the space is intact, “in case the buyer wants to make use of it,” he said.

The historical Michigan Avenue lobby, with quotations about freedom of the press and other subjects carved into its limestone walls, remains and will be supplemented with a new second entrance on Illinois Street, Golub said. Residents arriving by car will come to a motor court below the building.

Because it was built as an office building with wide floors, Martini said, the tall windows on most floors were meant to let daylight penetrate deeply into the space. While the installation of new mechanicals throughout the building required dropping the ceilings, they pop up again near the windows, to preserve the full height.

The lighted sign that spells out Chicago Tribune in eight-foot letters, subject of a court spat with the Tribune that settled in the developers’ favor, will be reinstalled as the outer wall of a pergola along Pioneer Court, not flat against a wall as it was previously deployed, the new renderings show, and Golub said the statue of Nathan Hale that stood near a secondary Michigan Avenue entrance will be moved closer to the street.