300 East Randolph
|Formerly||The Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Illinois Building|
|Also known as||The BCBS Tower|
|Address||300 East Randolph Street, Chicago, Illinois 60601|
- Like a good number of buildings in downtown Chicago, this one was originally constructed with a vertical expansion in mind. When this building was completed in 1997, it was 33 stories tall. An additional 24 stories were added a decade later.
- The vertical expansion of this building did not require city approval because approval for the original building (Phase 1), and the expansion (Phase 2) were granted at the time of the buildingʼs original construction.
|2003||The managers of this building were asked to illuminate its Grant Park-facing Windows to spell out the name Shania Twain because she was playing a concert in the park. The request was denied.|
|July, 2006||Plans to add 24 stories to this building were announced.|
|October, 2007||A pair of cranes were put in place at the roof line to facilitate the vertical expansion.|
|November, 2009||The vertical expansion was completed.|
For years this building provided a dignified presence on the edge of the railroad yard that would eventually be decked over to become Millennium Park. It looked out over Grant Park and the Loop with its blue glass and white accents reminding the office workers of the wonders of the great lake that lay just beyond. That placid harmony with its surroundings was shattered in 2007. On purpose.
Many buildings in Chicago aspire to reach higher than they do. This is one that actually attained its goal. In 2007 a project was started to add another 24 stories of offices on top of the 33 already built. The skyscraper was designed from the start for this kind of expansion. Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Illinois knew it would eventually be necessary. But the details were little more than a footnote in an archive, or a bit of trivia on a skyscraper nerdʼs web site for a decade.
The vertical extension cost $270,000,000 — a little over $10 million per floor — and was more than a little complicated. First, a small derrick was brought to the roof piece-by-piece. Once installed, it was used to lift up the pieces of a larger derrick that was assembled on the roof. The larger machine was then used to disassemble the smaller one and lower it back to the ground. When that was done, the remaining derrick was used to lift the pieces of a crane to the roof where it was assembled. The derrick was then moved and used to bring up a second crane.
It is remarkable that the upward expansion was needed so soon. Other buildings in the area have waited for decades, ready to be expanded.
At the time the original building was completed, it was a stately presence on East Randolph Street. But as the world progressed around it, the tower became less and less prominent. The final insult came with the 2007 completion of 340 On The Park, a 64-story residential tower next door that was double the size of the this building. Adding another 24 stories didnʼt bring this skyscraper head and shoulders above the its neighbors, but at least it no longer looked like the runt of the litter.
The best views of this building are actually from the back. And at night. This is how you can appreciate the structure of the building. It features a massive central atrium that is clearly visible through the glass when office lights illuminate it from within. You can sit in Lake Shore Park and watch the internal elevators whiz up and down the edges of the atrium serving the workers toiling long into the night. That atrium is surrounded on three sides by banks of offices. The arrangement is similar to the classic light well common in many Chicago buildings built around the turn of the 20th century. People in the offices are able to get light from all sides, even if they are deep within the center of the structure.
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