Water Tower Place
Water Tower Place is a large urban, mixed-use development comprising a 758,000 sq ft shopping mall and 74 story skyscraper in Chicago, Illinois. The complex is located at 835 North Michigan Avenue, along the Magnificent Mile. It is named after the nearby Chicago Water Tower.

Originally conceived in the late 1960s by the Mafco Company (the former shopping center development division of Marshall Field & Co.), the skyscraper was eventually built in 1975 by Urban Retail Properties, a company led by Philip Morris Klutznick and his son Thomas J. Klutznick. The project received a J.C. Nichols Prize from the Urban Land Institute in 1986. The tower section is a 74-story 859 foot (262 m) reinforced concrete slab, faced with gray marble, and is the eighth tallest building in Chicago and the twenty-sixth tallest in the United States. When built, it was the tallest reinforced concrete building in the world. It contains an award winning Ritz-Carlton hotel, luxury condominiums, and office space and sits atop a block long base containing a highly successful, atrium-style retail mall that fronts on the Magnificent Mile. Water Tower Place's opening substantially changed the economic dynamics of the Magnificent Mile by bringing middle-class shops to what had been a street dominated by luxury retailers, tony hotels, and expensive apartments. It irreversibly shifted downtown Chicago's retail center of gravity north from State Street to North Michigan Avenue. Thirty years after its construction, its residences and hotel remain among Chicago's most prized addresses, and the mall remains nearly fully leased, drawing large enough crowds that many retailers operate outlets both inside the mall and just outside it. At the time of their design in 1973, the 360 Condominiums of Water Tower Place, were the finest in the country. Richard A. Meyers Realty, Inc., was the contracted sales and marketing consultant. In a recessionary market, the company was given the challenge of demonstrating the product and obtaining hard contracts—before there was even a hole in the ground—something that was then thought of as being near impossible—especially in the recessionary climate of 1974-1976. To accomplish this, a detailed product research study was conducted by Gary S. Meyers , which included examining on a room-by-room basis over luxury 100 high-rise condominiums in the Chicago metropolitan area and a like number of the most up-scale high-rise condominiums in the nation. The product analysis was then compared with sales velocities of other projects to determine buyer needs and wants and their respective acceptable price points. The net result was a mathematically designed housing product that allowed for specific space allocation for each room in each unit. The results were efficient units, where each room had a competitive advantage. Because of this unique design methodology, the condominium units are still considered about the best in the country—even after over 30 years. After the product was designed, Richard A. Meyers Realty, Inc. and Urban Investment and Development took a entire floor in the Blair Building, 645 N. Michigan Avenue, and build several full-scale condominium units, several blocks away from the site. This combined marketing procedure aided in the selling of well over 100 units before the building was ready for occupancy—while competitors who were ready for occupancy sold virtually nothing during the same period. In 2001, a stylish program of refurbishments was begun, including enclosing the exterior arcade along Michigan and adding a loading dock in the middle of the block for additional retail space. Also included were updates to the famous escalators and fountains leading into the mall from North Michigan Avenue lobby, as well as enhancements to the sidewalk areas, the mall's exterior facades, and department store entrances. Some of the changes included the addition of extensive exterior glass walls and display areas for the department stores, some small specialty retail space in the renovated lobby area, and huge exterior rounded, corner glass bay windows and lighted "fins" on the North Michigan Avenue and side street exterior walls of the mall. These last additions broke up the boxy nature of the original architecture and added some dimension and scale to the expansive, but monolithic marble walls. The interior fountain between the escalators leading from the North Michigan Avenue lobby were also updated with a tiered "pop jet" fountain with cascading waterfalls and balls of water, controlled by computer-based choreography. The Rouse Company acquired the center in 2002 during the breakup of the then Dutch-owned Urban Shopping Centers, Inc. It was subsequently acquired by General Growth Properties. The building's most famous full-time resident is Oprah Winfrey . Having bought a $6,000,000 condo on November 28, 2006, Oprah says she is planning to eventually sell her residence in Water Tower Place, according to the Chicago Sun Times.

Shopping center
Water Tower Place has in recent years grown into one of Chicago's premier shopping destinations due to its easy access (within city limits) and its wide variety of shops. The stores include Crane & Co Paper Makers , three of Abercrombie & Fitch's stores ( Hollister Co., abercrombie Kids, and Abercrombie & Fitch) occupy the mall. American Eagle Outfitters opened in fall 2007. Chocolatier Godiva has a location in the mall. Other retailers include bebe, bebe sport, Banana Republic, Florsheim, Lacoste, Victoria's Secret, Movado, I Medici Firenze, Sephora, Chico's, Ann Taylor, White House Black Market, J. Jill, Oakley, Crabtree & Evelyn, The Limited, Finish Line, Aldo, Coach, Forever 21, Wet Seal and the official Chicago Cubs Clubhouse Shop. The eight level mall has over 100 shops, including department stores Lord & Taylor (closed in March 2007), and Macy's (formerly a branch of the renowned Marshall Field's), a live theatre, and several restaurants, arranged around a stunning chrome-and-glass atrium with glass elevators. It was the one of the first vertical malls in the world, although along North Michigan Avenue it has been joined by The Shops at North Bridge, 900 North Michigan, and Chicago Place, all of which incorporate many features introduced by Water Tower Place. The building's design successfully addresses the challenge of providing separate entries and vertical circulation for, what amounts to a regional mall-scaled retail center, two department stores, the theater, offices, hotel, and residences.

Residents of Water Tower Place are zoned to schools in the Chicago Public Schools.
  • Ogden School
  • Wells Community Academy High School

Position in Chicago's skyline


4 photos

Building Activity

  • removed a media and updated a digital reference
    about 5 years ago via OpenBuildings.com
  • updated a digital reference
    about 5 years ago via Annotator