Water Tower Place in Chicago

Photo of Water Tower Place in Chicago, Illinois
Photograph © Wayne Lorentz/Artefaqs Corporation
Photo of Water Tower Place in Chicago, Illinois
Photograph © Wayne Lorentz/Artefaqs Corporation
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Photo of Water Tower Place in Chicago, Illinois
Photograph © Wayne Lorentz/Artefaqs Corporation
Photo of Water Tower Place in Chicago, Illinois
Photograph © Wayne Lorentz/Artefaqs Corporation
Photo of Water Tower Place in Chicago, Illinois
Photograph © Wayne Lorentz/Artefaqs Corporation
Photo of Water Tower Place in Chicago, Illinois
Photograph © Wayne Lorentz/Artefaqs Corporation
Photo of Water Tower Place in Chicago, Illinois
Photograph © Wayne Lorentz/Artefaqs Corporation
Photo of Water Tower Place in Chicago, Illinois
Photograph © Wayne Lorentz/Artefaqs Corporation
Photo of Water Tower Place in Chicago, Illinois
Photograph © Wayne Lorentz/Artefaqs Corporation
Photo of Water Tower Place in Chicago, Illinois
Photograph © Wayne Lorentz/Artefaqs Corporation
Photo of Water Tower Place in Chicago, Illinois
Photograph © Wayne Lorentz/Artefaqs Corporation
Photo of Water Tower Place in Chicago, Illinois
Photograph © Wayne Lorentz/Artefaqs Corporation
Photo of Water Tower Place in Chicago, Illinois
Photograph © Wayne Lorentz/Artefaqs Corporation
Photo of Water Tower Place in Chicago, Illinois
Photograph © Wayne Lorentz/Artefaqs Corporation
Photo of Water Tower Place in Chicago, Illinois
Photograph © Wayne Lorentz/Artefaqs Corporation
Photo of Water Tower Place in Chicago, Illinois
Photograph © Wayne Lorentz. Licensed to Artefaqs Corporation
Photo of Water Tower Place in Chicago, Illinois
Photograph © Wayne Lorentz. Licensed to Artefaqs Corporation

N Michigan Ave

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Water Tower Place
Official name:Watertower Place

845 North Michigan Avenue, Chicago, Illinois, Gold Coast 60611
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More than a tower, Water Tower Place is a shopping mecca for millions of tourists in middle America. While its stately white form is often overlooked in Chicago's skyline, there's no question of its impact on the city and its tourist trade.
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The building that we see today is the result of the Marshall Field department store chain's desire to open a new store north of its flagship entity on State Street. The company approached a real estate developer about the project and it was decided to put the new store on Michigan Avenue.
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Michigan Avenue, at the time, was a boulevard of high class apartment buildings and even higher class boutiques. While State Street was the market for the masses, Michigan Avenue was the quieter, classier, shopping district. Or at least it was until 1969. That was the year the John Hancock Center opened, driving a massive office and residential complex into the heart of the area. If the Hancock Center was the crack in the dike, Water Tower Place was the flood that followed.
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An entire city block was selected across Chestnut street from the John Hancock Center. Part of the land was purchased from the John Hancock insurance company, the most of the rest from the Seagrams company for $10 million. At the time the most notable structure on the plot of land was the 12-story Pearson Hotel, which was razed.
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In its place rose America's first "vertical mall" -- nine stories of shops, restaurants, and other reasons to spend money. The mall fronts Michigan Avenue, while the hotel and residences remain set back toward what is now Mies van der Rohe Way. This is a nice effort to keep the building from overwhelming Michigan Avenue and it minimizes the number of views blocked in the John Hancock residences. However, people at the upper levels of the JHC who overlook the roof of Water Tower place complain that it's like having a parking lot for a view.
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With the first mall now open on Michigan Avenue, the character of the "Boul Mich" changed. It attracted Midwestern moms and flocks of tourists to the once stuffy boulevard. People who look wistfully at the old days say that Michigan Avenue was like Paris, though any such comparison has to be taken with a significant dose of salt. Any comparison to Paris is more likely the imagined Paris of mid-American minds, and not the true Paris known to the French.
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Regardless, once the streets started filling with middle class money more shops followed, as did two other vertical malls all competing for the tourist dollar. Such a high concentration of shopping opportunities in such a small area shifted the retail center of the city northward and led to the decline of the State Street corridor in the 70's and 80's. It wasn't until the very late 1990's that it began to recover. The boutiques that once lined Michigan fled to the side streets of Oak, Walton, and Chestnut, as well as the semi-suburban refuge of Chicago's Lincoln Park neighborhood.
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Today, Water Tower Place is one of the must-see attractions in the city. Though to some it's just another mall, to most it's a dazzling big city shopping experience sanitized and conveniently packaged in a way that is irresistible to families, useful to locals, and welcome in a world that is big enough to support all kinds of shopping adventures.

Quick Facts
Statistics
  • Official stories: 74
  • Additional levels: Mezzanine between 1 and 2, plus a mechanical penthouse
  • Parking spaces: 699
  • Hotel rooms: 426
  • Hotel apartments: 10
  • Retail floor space: 935,659 square feet
Timeline
  • 1973: Marshall Field approaches real estate developer Philip Klutznick about opening a second store in Chicago. The project would eventually develop into Water Tower Place.
  • 1974: Construction begins
  • 1975: Marshall Field's (now Macy's) opens its store in Water Tower Place
  • 1976: Construction is completed
  • November 28, 2006: Television talk show personality Oprah Winfrey buys a condominium in this building.
  • 2006: The Lord & Taylor anchor department store closes
  • 2007: It is announced that American Girl Place will move from Chicago Avenue into the former Lord & Taylor space.
  • April, 2011: Renovation begins on the first three floors of the Macy's store.
Notes
  • This used to be the location of the Pearson Hotel.
  • Many tourists flock to this building because talk show hostess Oprah Winfrey maintains a condominium on the 56th floor of this building. Her fans are usually disappointed to find out that Winfrey is almost never here, and actually spends most of her time at her homes in California or Hawaii, visiting Chicago to tape her television shows before returning to the west coast.
  • The land that this building was erected on was purchased from the Seagram beverage company for $10,000,000.
  • At the time of its completion, this was the world's tallest reinforced concrete building.
  • Retail and commercial address: 845 North Michigan Avenue, Chicago, Illinois 60611
  • Hotel address: 160 East Pearson Street, Chicago, Illinois 60611
  • Residential address: 180 East Pearson Street, Chicago, Illinois 60611
Related Video
Helicopter Lift at Water Tower Place
A sky crane is used to deliver HVAC units in Chicago

Video courtesy of the Chicago Architecture Blog.

Stacking Diagram
Penthouse: 
34-74: 
33: 
16-32: 
15: 
11-14: 
10: 
2-9: 
1: 
B3-B1: 
Did You Know?
  • The American Girl Place store in this mall occupes 52,000 square feet of space.
Tourist Tips
  • The chances of you seeing Oprah are very close to zero. But you can see her doorman, who stands at the residential entrance to this building at 180 East Pearson Street.
Rate This Skyscraper
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Water Tower Place in Chicago.  Photo by john kovacich
Photo by john kovacich
Your Thoughts

There are three comments.

  It really helps bring it's presence to the Chicago Skyline, by being next to the John Hancock Center.

Brent Kampert - Saturday, October 18th, 2008 @ 3:08pm  

  It's amazing that something so big, so huge, and remain nearly invisible to people on the street. I think most people don't realize there's a skyscraper on top of the mall.

Aaron Burger - Monday, May 26th, 2008 @ 11:34am  

  The symmetry and scale of the tower is somewhat appealing, but the base is highly dated, and needs to be completely re-done. The recent tack-ons to the retail facade are fairly offensive.

JL - Friday, November 2nd, 2007 @ 1:24am  

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