A New Year of New Buildings in Chicago

The dawn of a new year has us thinking about the new architecture that will change Chicago’s skyline. Construction on major buildings slowed to a crawl after the Great Recession, but the tide has turned. Several new high-rises are popping up quickly, and showing us that the way we live and work in the city is changing. Let’s talk about Chicago’s skyscrapers that are slated to open in 2016.

chicago architecture wolf point
Wolf point, at the bend in the Chicago River.

Wolf Point

I frequently ride the Brown Line and always take in the scenery when the train goes across the river. Over the past year or two, I’ve observed the riverside construction of several new buildings in River North. First to the finish line is Wolf Point West, another apartment building. It will be joined by two others on the same spit of land. The tallest proposed building, Wolf Point South, won’t open for a few more years and is planned to be one of the tallest in the city.

Block 37 Apartment Tower

Those who have joined us for the Loop Interior Architecture Walking Tour will know all about the epic saga that is Block 37’s redevelopment. It literally takes a whole book to grasp Block 37, or we share a more concise version on the walking tour. And here’s an even more concise version: the Pedway passage, office tower, and mall at Block 37 have all been open for a few years. The planned apartment towers and transit center were not built on-time because of financial issues. But construction finally began on the apartments a few years ago and it topped out just a few months ago. The new building holds 690 rental units and opens mid-year. All those new renters, a new AMC dine-in theater that just opened in December, and upscale Latinicity food court just might draw some crowds. Little by litte, Block 37 is getting there.


Block 37 isn’t the only spot where new apartment towers are appearing. In fact, the biggest trend for new buildings in Chicago seems to be downtown luxury apartments. Just a few blocks from Block 37, a 41-floor tower dubbed MILA will open in 2016. The developers got that name from the building’s intersection – Michigan and Lake. It’s on a stretch of Michigan Avenue between the river and Millennium Park called the “Millennium Mile.” MILA is just one part of a recent boomlet in new apartment, hotel, and retail buildings in that stretch. Though, I will admit that none match the panache of Carbide and Carbon, which we admire on the Architecture Walking Tour for Design Lovers. I traverse that spot a lot, since I teach at nearby Harold Washington College, so it will be interesting to see if that relatively sleepy corner of downtown comes alive this year.

new buildings in Chicago riverside drive
Two of the new buildings in Chicago are going up on the west side of the river. Photo Credit: Amanda Scotese


Over in the West Loop, two new office towers that climb over 50 stories tall are under constructions. Incidentally, both buildings occupy the air rights above the tracks heading into Union Station. One of them, called River Point, has a design that caught my eye. I love the soaring arches that will curve into the building’s shape at its top and bottom. They read as an abstracted echo of the bend in the river below.

These new buildings in Chicago will radically alter the skyline and where people live, work, and move about. Years ago no one would even think of living in downtown Chicago (except maybe the pastor in the Temple Building). With more people living in the Loop, there will be more shopping, restaurants, and things to do. And with plans for even more super-tall buildings beyond 2016, it’s an exciting time to be an architecture nerd in Chicago.

– Alex Bean, Chicago Detours Tour Guide


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Private Tour Coordinator and Tour Guide

There is no shortage of things to discover in Chicago—I love being an urban explorer and uncovering its hidden places. I have an MA in Public History from Loyola University Chicago, and I have worked as a museum educator and kindergarten teacher. My desire to learn new things fuels my passion for educating others, which I get to experience every day as a Chicago tour guide. I live in the northern neighborhood of Rogers Park.

“Our guide Ellen was exceptional and gifted with a great personal touch.”


Tour Guide

Whether you are a first-time visitor or a lifelong resident, the vibrant history and modern majesty of Chicago never ceases to amaze. I’m a graduate of Columbia College with an M.A. in Interdisciplinary Art. I’ve worked for many years as an educator at City Colleges of Chicago. As tour guide at Chicago Detours, I integrate my enthusiasm for culture and architecture with my passion as an educator. West Town/Noble Square area is home for me.

“Jen was a perfect storyteller and kept us spellbound for hours.”


Tour Guide

With our Chicago neighborhoods, vibrant cultural institutions and nearly two centuries of larger-than-life stories, there’s never a dull moment here! I’m a fifth generation Chicagoan and a graduate of Washington University in St. Louis. In addition to guiding tours, I’m a creative writer and amateur genealogist. I also enjoy the city’s dynamic theater scene. You can also read overlooked stories from 19th-century newspapers on my “Second Glance History” blog. I live in River North.


Tour Guide

Chicago is unique as it always evolves into the future while holding on to the past. I’m fascinated by how people latch on to old architecture but happily pave over others. My background is in theater and performance and I’ve been a tour guide here for more than 10 years. Currently I’m finishing my Master’s in Public History at Loyola University because I love to teach the history of this scrappy city. I’m in the Edgewater neighborhood.


Operations Coordinator and Tour Guide

Chicago’s history is so fascinating, you could spend a lifetime uncovering its secrets…I’m willing to give it a try! I have an M.A. in US History from the University of Nevada-Las Vegas and then pursued doctoral studies in Urban History at the University of Illinois at Chicago. I love to learn new aspects of Chicago’s rich history and then share my knowledge as a tour guide with Chicago Detours. I live in Ravenswood.

“Marie was a bubbling fountain of information and contagious enthusiasm.”


Operations Coordinator and Tour Guide

As a fourth generation Chicagoan, I have been living and loving Chicago by bike, on foot, public transit or automobile. I am a graduate of UIC where through the College of Urban Planning and Public Affairs, began my eagerness to understand the nature, history and impacts of urban planning and development. It is incredibly rewarding to give back to this wonderful city by helping out in the office of Chicago Detours. I live in the incredibly diverse neighborhood of Albany Park.
“Sonny was extremely knowledgeable about all things Chi-town.”
Wade K


Content Manager and Tour Guide

Chicago has so many neighborhoods, buildings, and by-ways that it’s hard to go long without seeing something new, or something familiar from a new angle. I studied Cinema History for my M.A. from the University of Chicago. I’ve worked as a culture writer for various publications and as an educator of the humanities at the City Colleges of Chicago. I’m thrilled to share my love of this city’s busy past and unique architectural spaces with Chicago Detours. I live in the Chicago neighborhood of Lincoln Park.

“Alex was fascinating to listen to. He clearly knows his history and it shows.”
Katie K

Amanda Scotese

Executive Director and Tour Guide

I’m an interpreter of personal stories from the past and the city’s landscape. I love to imagine what originally happened inside old unmarked buildings, and what forces have shaped their design. I studied Chicago history, architectural history, and anything Chicago-related through my M.A. in the Humanities at the University of Chicago. My love for stories was enriched by my B.A. in Literature from the University of Michigan. I’ve written travel articles for publications like Rick Steves’ Italy best-selling travel guides, the San Francisco Bay Guardian, and The Chicago Food Encyclopedia. I live in the Chicago neighborhood of West Avondale.
“You can TELL Amanda is hyper-passionate about doing the research and getting the story that nobody’s heard before.”
Shelby F

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