New West Loop office building faces scrutiny
June 7, 2019

By Nawal Dairi

A New-York based developer, Thor Equities, plans to construct an 18-story office building at 800 W. Fulton St. that will stand 300 feet tall. Although the City has approved zoning for the project, community members have raised raise height and traffic concerns.

Thor Equities declined to comment on the new development. 

Nearby buildings range from two to four stories, and the development site is surrounded by four heavily traveled streets: Halsted Street on the east side of the property, Green Street on the west, Wayman Street on the north, and Fulton Street on the south.

Along Fulton and Halsted, the infrastructure’s first and second levels will consist of more than 419,000 square feet of office space and approximately 37,000 square feet of retail space. Both the two-story lobby and front entrance will face Green Street. Entry to an underground parking garage with 32 spaces and loading docks will be located at Wayman Street.

A community organization, Neighbors of West Loop (NoWL), voiced traffic concerns due to the development’s location and potential impact on residents.

Part of quality of life is being able to move around your neighborhood,” said Matt LeTourneau, president of NoWL. “One of our primary concerns about the project was congestion around the site. Considering 18 stories, the hundreds of square feet of office space, and people coming in and out of the property, this will create a traffic nightmare. Quality of life is adversely affected when you have residents around this area dealing with driving difficulties as a result of road blocks.”

NoWL held a series of workshops and community meetings to gather preferences for West Loop development and determine the community’s design standards. Many of these standards, such as height thresholds and drop-off areas, do not coincide with Thor Equities’s new project.

Courtesy SOM
Neighbors are concerned about height and traffic impacts caused by an office building on Fulton Street in the West Loop.

‘Out of scale’

In an April position letter, the NoWL called the development’s height “out of scale” in relation to nearby buildings and double the community’s suggested height maximum of 150 feet.

NoWL is not necessarily anti- highrise. LeTourneau noted NoWL’s support of highrise buildings along the expressway and north of the construction site along railroad tracks. “What we try to do is create some sort of contoured layout where residents are primarily located to maintain lower building height thresholds,” he explained. “Business and tourist-oriented areas, along the tracks, would have higher thresholds.”

Apart from height thresholds, NoWL members object to the drop-off area at the property’s west side, along Green Street, due to the resulting traffic congestion on Fulton and Wayman.

Alderman Walter Burnett Jr. (27th) noted several advantages to the 800 W. Fulton Street development, including demolishing a nightclub to which neighbors have objected in the past. “I had several meetings in particular with the 740 W. Fulton St. building about nightclub disturbances such as noise and traffic,” Burnett explained. “We have had that challenge over the years.”

Burnett also noted the development would bring wider sidewalks on Fulton and Green Streets to allow more pedestrian traffic. He said Fulton Street’s future draws inspiration from Europe’s auto-free pedestrian zones.

“Some of the plans for Fulton Street are to periodically close down the street and make it a pedestrian street,” Burnett said, noting this would occur “on certain days and times, once we finish the reconstruction on Fulton Street all the way up to Ogden Avenue. Maybe on Saturday mornings and afternoons, we look to make the street strictly pedestrian. At that point, we hope that commuters will drive and park on streets other than Fulton or take trains, buses, or bikes.”

Burnett estimated demolition will begin in six months and that construction will generate more than 200 jobs. Officials still do not know how many people will work at the structure, but the development will bring jobs to the area, according to Burnett. Through continual developments in the area, Burnett projects that, in the future, more than 50,000 workers coming into the area bounded by Hubbard, Washington, and Halsted Streets and Ogden Avenue.

Traffic and construction

Although the project is moving forward, NoWL will remain active, focusing on traffic impact and construction.

“Our first area of focus will make sure not too many lanes or sidewalks are closed and that alternates are clearly marked for safety,” LeTourneau said. “We would like contractors and developers to look into those areas and preserve parking as well as traffic lanes.

“The second is methods of construction,” he added. “There have been projects in that past that involve driving piles, which is a very long, drawn out, tedious, and loud inconvenience. It is basically pounding steel rods into the ground over the course of days or weeks, so we would like contractors to avoid this construction method. We want to make sure that the construction work is not too obstructive to the well being and sanity of the people that live nearby.”

Skidmore, Owings & Merrill designed the building.

To reach Burnett’s office, call (312) 432-1995. For more on Neighbors of West Loop, log on to https://neighborsofwestloop.com. For Thor Equities, log on to www.thorequities.com.