It may come as a surprise to readers outside Chicago that the Sears Tower, still the tallest building in the Americas and longtime tallest building in the world, was built as-of-right. It required no planning approvals, no design review, no zoning change, no Planned Unit Development review. Yes, indeed, Chicago’s old zoning ordinance was so very generous with the bonuses for plazas and upper-floor setbacks that the tower achieves 110 stories and an FAR of about 40, with more floor space than the original Mall of America — all as of right. (Its construction did require that the city vacate an alley.)
Now, Todd J. Behme reports in Crain’s that the owners wish to replace the Wacker Drive plaza with what looks to be a 50-story hotel. Anywhere else, this would be a huge building, but next to the since-renamed Willis Tower’s heft it’s rather puny. Of course, there are already huge hotels down the street and vacant lots across the street, but no! This has to be on *our* property.
And the zoning bonus? The so-windy-it’s-useless public space that was our public payout for allowing an extra two million square feet of offices? Ah, screw it.