As 2016 begins, two high-rise apartment buildings edge closer to breaking ground. Both sites have storied pasts: one was to be built more than a decade ago, and another was the site of an infamous Chicago diner.

  • Two sites for high-rise apartment towers are competing for the first groundbreaking of 2016.
  • Both have storied pasts: one was Ed Debevic's kitschy diner, the other a decade-old project that stalled.
  • Debevic's was most famous for a waitress whose job-mandated rudeness earned her millions of views on social media.

There are two likely contenders for the first tall tower to begin construction in 2016. Both are on sites with a storied past.

First, Related Midwest’s 30-story, 308-unit apartment tower is out of the gate with a newly granted foundation permit.

The project in the West Loop at 1035 West Van Buren Street, is a new vision for this parking lot. Some may recall that just over a decade ago, in June 2005, a 27-story tower was approved for the site as part of larger plan for the whole block. The rest of the block took off; just to the east sits the Automatic Lofts, a student housing building crafted from a former warehouse. To the west sits Blue Plate Catering.

According to published reports about the project, the original plan for a postmodern theme with older architectural enhancements for the 27-story tower was scrapped when the project was. Related has now refined the vision to a modern-influenced design.

The design features a glass and metal tower of 330 feet, atop a parking podium, which will face the Eisenhower Expressway. Apartment community amenities will also take up the podium’s roof. Retail space has been approved for the ground floor. Changes from the original plan were simple, as most of the approval work had already been done.

Last year, the building that houses Blue Plate was also thought to be in the sights of a high-rise developer, who wanted a signature tower to rise on that site. Neighborhood opposition to any new towers on Van Buren Street got in the way of that idea.

Related Midwest is apparently not be ignored in the Chicagoland landscape, having purchased the Chicago Spire site, and is developing several other notable addresses.

The other contender: whatever will replace Ed Debevic’s, which recently had an encounter with  a demolition crew. Love it or hate it, the restaurant, which first opened in 1984 and remained true to it’s 1950s diner vibe, got people talking.  

The restaurant’s self-proclaimed “deep and cheap” menu was not as celebrated as was the social media stardom of one waitress, who was filmed by an Idaho family last August as she served them with the restaurant’s trademark sass.

The diner wasn’t supposed to close without a new location, but all that is known is that the owner, Jeff Himmel, wanted the eatery to be closer to Michigan Avenue.

The new building that will one day rise from the ashes of the diner, which was in River North at 640 North Wells, is proposed for 22 stories, with 251 apartments, 12,000 square feet of ground floor retail and 117 parking spaces.

Perhaps the first days of the new year will see the first high-rise groundbreaking, and a new home for a crew of sassy waitstaff.

Email Kimberley Sirk.

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