Council on Tall Buildings and Urban Habitat
Legacy Tour

October 21st, 2009
Report written by Steven Henry, CTBUH Publications Coordinator

Legacy tower viewed from Millennium Park
. At a height of 822 feet (250 meters), with 72 stories housing 357 residential units, The Legacy at Millennium Park is the tallest residential tower in Chicago, and the newest addition to the downtown loop area residential stock. Structurally topped out in April of 2009 and reaching substantial completion by September 2009, at the time of the tour the tower was fully clad and only interior fit outs on the upper floors remained to be done. The tour began in the Legacy sales center in an adjacent building where tour guides Jay Butler of the Walsh Group, and Peter Noone of the architects Solomon Cordwell Buenz walked the tour guests through the design of the tower, using the large scale model of the building for visual aide.

The Legacy is sandwiched between the historic Michigan Avenue street wall to the east and the historic Wabash Avenue Jeweler’s district to the west. Peter Noone described the city’s request that the tower, when viewed from Michigan Avenue, appear to be sited on Wabash to preserve the street wall, but when viewed from Wabash Avenue appear to be sited on Michigan to preserve the Jeweler’s district.  While a seemingly impossible task, the Legacy is actually quite successful in this feat, aided largely by the decision to preserve the façades of the original towers along Wabash Avenue. Masking the building’s large parking podium, this preserves the street scale of the neighborhood and creates the illusion that the new glass tower rises up from behind these buildings, first coming into view seven stories off the ground.

Mr. Noone also pointed out a few green features of the tower on the model, noting several roof gardens that serve as common space amenities for the residents. Solar panels were added to the façade (admittedly as a late addition to the project) visible as several black strips near the crown of the southern façade. While there are not enough panels installed to make a substantial impact on the buildings energy consumption, they do provide enough to power the buildings nighttime vanity lighting without drawing from the grid.

Guests gather around building model in Legacy sales center
Peter Noone of architects SCB describes the project using the large model as visual aide

Following the discussion around the model, guests were given a presentation on the phases of construction, where some of the complexities of building a tower on a very constricted city site were outlined.  The careful preservation process on the Wabash Avenue street façade was also discussed. The process included building a massive steel support system out onto the city sidewalk to support the outer wall while the buildings were demolished behind. Original shop drawings for the buildings were located with the help of the Chicago historical society, and Terra Cotta was imported from England to perfectly match the original work.

After the presentation, the tour proceeded into the Legacy building’s lobby to begin touring the building itself. Adding yet another level of integration to the surrounding site, the tour guests were surprised to be taken into a neighboring building on Monroe Street, which serves as the main entrance to Legacy. Owned by the School of the Art Institute, the Legacy’s developers reached an agreement with their neighbor to renovate, restore, and provide additional studio space for the Institute, and in exchange, the Legacy’s main lobby entrance would be built through their existing building. The one notable downside to this arrangement is the sizable walk through several long hallways in order to reach the tower’s main lifts from the lobby entrance. 

Jay Butler of Walsh group presents the construction process to the guests
Legacy lobby, located in the School of the Art Institute building

The first stop in the building was to the 15th level amenity floor. Here guests toured the pool and spa area and could see first hand the nose that cantilevers out over the adjacent ally (achieved by purchasing the air rights from neighboring buildings). On this floor it houses the matching shaped spa, on floors above, it provides additional square footage and additional views to the residential units. Also visible from this floor is the skybridge that connects Legacy to its neighbor to the east, the University Club—a historic landmark completed in 1909 and designed by renowned architect Martin Roche. The club had had future plans to build up additional space for squash courts on its roof that would block the views from Legacy, so the developer instead built the courts for them within the Legacy tower itself, connected by the skybridge. The 1909 building was obviously not designed to support this additional load and thus the bridge is cantilevered and completely supported off of the Legacy, and does not actual touch the University Club building, but with an expansion joint. As part of the arrangement, Legacy residents will be able to join the Club and gain access to many of their facilities.

15th floor pool
View of the cantilevered projection over adjacent ally

The next stop on the tour was to view a recently completed unit on the 22nd floor. Guests donned paper booties over their shoes to protect the recently completed floors, this specific unit would be turned over to its owner in a matter of days. Upon entering the living space of the unit, guests could first appreciate the spectacular views of Lake Michigan and Millennium Park offered by the floor-to-ceiling glazing (several panels include small hopper windows that allow owners to regulate fresh air in their units). Because of the historic street wall along Michigan Avenue, these views will be forever preserved.

Living space of a typical unit
View of a 22nd floor living room

The final stop on the tour was to the 60th floor where construction work was still underway on the interiors. On this floor only the aluminum framework had been installed. With the dry wall not yet in place, it allowed for views across the entire floor plate and made it easy to see the way the individuals units laid out in relation to one another. 

Visible framework on the 60th floor
View to the north on the 60th floor

Tour guests walked away with a better understanding of one of Chicago’s newest high-rise towers, a model in site integration, ground plane preservation and downtown residential living. The CTBUH would like to extend a special thanks to Walsh Construction and Solomon Cordwell Buenz for their time and efforts in coordinate a most informative tour.

Guests gather in a typical unit living room on the 22nd floor

Attendees: Trino Beltran, Bouygues Construction; Lawrence Carbary, Dow Corning Corporation; Cheong Fai Michael Choi, Illinois Institute of Technology; Arturo Cuellar, Dow Corning Corporation; Laura Fitoussi, French Trade Office; Ryan Gardner, Poliform; Tom Gouldsborough, Manitoba Hydro; Seong Lee Jong, POSCO Architects & Consultants; Osung Kwon, Illinois Institute of Technology; Dongwoo Lee, Illinois Institute of Technology; Pil Won Lee, RIST; Leopold Mann, DePaul University; Shai Margolin, Margolin Bros. Ltd.; Luzi Margolin, Margolin Bros. Ltd.; Bojana Martinich, Illinois Institute of Technology; Michele McVey, Lerch Bates, Inc.; Conrad Paulson, Wiss Janney Elstner; Jay Popp, Lerch Bates, Inc.; L-Ramu Ramachandran, Perkins Eastman; Nigel Sessions, Davis Langdon Africa; O. Russell Seward, Chicago Architecture Foundation; Chuck Wagener, Metropolis Investment Holdings Inc.; Jerry Walleck, Perkins Eastman; Seokhoon Yim, Illinois Institute of Technology.

Picture Gallery
Click an image below to enlarge.
. . . .
Overall view
Guests at sales center

Viewing the model
Outside lobby entrance

Main lobby



22nd floor living space
Typical unit kitchen

Typical unit bedroom

Guets view a typical unit

Guests on the 22nd floor

Unfinished 60th floor

Drywall awaits installation on the 60th floor
Guests admire the 60th floor views
View to the north

View to the south

View of millennium park
View to the west