Headline-Worthy Conversion

Former Chicago Tribune Building brings century-old glamour to downtown living.

Written by Jeffrey Steele
Tribune Tower Residences, exterior shot

© Mary Cook Associates

When Tribune Co. launched a competition to design its new headquarters in Chicago in 1922, the contest attracted rapt attention from the international architectural and business communities. The stated aim was nothing short of creating Earth’s “most beautiful and distinctive office building.” On its completion in 1925, the Howells and Hood–designed neo-Gothic Tribune Tower embarked on its nearly century-long reign as one of the Windy City’s most beloved architectural jewels.

After the tower’s 2016 purchase by CIM Group and Golub & Co., a joint venture was launched to convert the structure, the former home of the Chicago Tribune editorial offices, to residential.

The result: Tribune Tower Residences, a collection of 162 one- to four-bedroom homes offering owners the enviable boast of possessing a piece of Chicago’s magnificent architectural legacy.

“As our guests walk through our amenities and models, they’re amazed at the beautiful transformation,” says Jeanne Martini, Tribune Tower Residences sales director. “From the building, you feel a part of the city as you take in views of the city’s architectural beauty, the Chicago River, and [Lake Michigan],” she says. “Yet, because of the stone facade and new windows, as people walk through the building, they say, ‘I can’t believe how quiet it is.’”

Unique Spaces Designed to Appeal to a 'Discerning Audience'

The residences’ ceiling details and state-of-the-art windows, distinctive floor plans, and heart-of-home gourmet kitchens are designed to leave purchasers awestruck. Design of the models was trusted to Mary Cook, president of Chicago’s Mary Cook Associates, who confronted multiple challenges.

“In many situations, you had very unique floor plans ... atypical configurations where no two were identical,” Cook says. Of the 162 units, there are 56 distinct floor plans ranging from 1,100 square feet to more than 4,300 square feet. “You also had a discerning audience passionate about Chicago, committed to city life ... and still looking for a plan reflecting their lifestyle.”

Cook crafted models reflecting specific personality types, such as the retired executive couple, the working executive couple, the single professional female, and the same-sex couple. “We had to take spaces that were unconventionally configured and find function,” she says. “In the single professional’s unit, we designed pocket doors she could open up if she was working or close off if she was entertaining. It looks beautiful.”

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Tribune Tower Residences, interior model gallery space & seating area

© Mary Cook Associates

Chicago Tribune sign as seen from rooftop deck

© Jeanne Martini

Tribune Tower Residences interior model, dining room and kitchen view

© Mary Cook Associates

The retired couple’s model, among the larger units, features an extra-large foyer that Cook’s team named “the gallery.” “This was designed for someone who had ... traveled the world and collected art and artifacts from the travels over the years that could be displayed in that space,” she says.

Many would-be buyers were initially on the fence. “But when the model units opened, that turbocharged sales,” Cook says. “Once they saw them, hesitations evaporated.” More than 60% of the units are now sold.

Home Extensions

The building’s 55,000 square feet of amenities were designed, Martini says, to create “fantastic places that were literally extensions of our residents’ homes.” A third-floor space includes a nearly three-acre park, gaming areas, lounge, catering kitchen, board rooms, work tables, and alcoves. The fireplace and wood panel surround of legendary Tribune publisher Robert R. “Colonel” McCormick was relocated from its 24th-floor lair to the third floor “so all the residents could enjoy that cozy ambience,” Martini says.

The second floor offers a fitness center, spa treatment rooms, steam rooms, sauna, and golf room with a putting green and sports simulator. The seventh floor boasts a 75- foot indoor pool with east views to the lake. Gaze south and the Chicago Tribune sign is visible through the pool’s glass doors, which are portals to outdoor grilling kitchens and lounging areas.

The 25th floor’s outdoor Crown Terrace features 360-degree city views, grilling stations, an herb garden, and elegant seating and dining areas, circled by the tower’s famed flying buttresses. Inside, the Crown Lounge offers a chef’s kitchen, lounge, and dining space.

For the ground-level retail space, two tenants have been announced: Museum of Ice Cream and Foxtrot, an upscale convenience store and café.

“They didn’t just purchase the historic building, which gives the overall project a great glow, but also the ability to build another significant building on the site.”

Added Density

The $500 million project led CIM Group to secure a $328 million construction loan from JPMorgan Chase in 2018. According to David Wasserman, senior advisor at New York–based Solomon Partners, CIM is a "very sophisticated development company” that relishes tackling unusual projects. “They control capital with a blend of short- and long-term investment views of the world, and a get-it-done attitude toward difficult development,” Wasserman says, “They didn’t just purchase the historic building, which gives the overall project a great glow, but also the ability to build another significant building on the site. That averages out the land cost and dramatically reduces the per-foot cost basis, the floor-area ratio that is achievable on the property as a whole.”

Whatever the economics, the Tribune Tower Residences’ sales team is counting on the storied Michigan Avenue address, steps from the riverfront and a 15-minute walk to the lake, to excite buyers and tenants. “You’ve got to fall in love with Chicago when you visit this site,” Cook says. “It’s breathtaking.”

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