FitzGerald Along the River: Part II

In case you missed it last month, we began to outline our self-guided tour of FitzGerald projects along the Chicago River. Last month’s feature took us from Lofts at River East near Navy Pier and ended at Printer’s Corner in the South Loop.


Returning to Wolf Point and heading north toward Goose Island, the FitzGerald projects begin to appear more and more frequently. Just north of the Grand Avenue Bridge stands River Bank Lofts, one of the earliest loft conversions in River North. The heavy timber building, which was built as a freight terminal and later housed an industrial printing facility, was adapted by FitzGerald into one- to three-bedroom, 1,000-1,700 square foot loft condominiums. Notably, this was the first implementation of a riverwalk between Ohio Street and Grand Avenue–a feature that was continued by many subsequent developments along that river corridor.

Two blocks north at Chicago Avenue, One River Place is one of FitzGerald’s most recognizable commissions. Originally, the nine-story building was the Montgomery Ward Merchandise Building–built by the catalog giant as the headquarters for her burgeoning company. It was one of the first cast-in-place concrete structures in Chicago with the entire building–walls, columns, floor slabs, and roof–made of concrete. A statue of Cirrus adorns the tower on the northeast corner of the building and marks the building’s entrance. The statue was installed by Montgomery Ward after he acquired it from the 1933 Century of Progress World’s Fair in Chicago.

FitzGerald designed a floor plan that would accommodate a total of 241 condominiums with luxurious penthouse units constructed in the former mechanical penthouse that feature nearly-unrivaled panoramic city views. Due to the vast area of the building’s floor plates, two central light courts were carved into the building down to the second floor, allowing the creation of inward-facing units with their own balconies in an otherwise unusable interior floor space.

As the tour continues north, if one is lucky enough to take the less-traveled North Branch Canal along the east side of Goose Island (rather than the wider North Branch to the west), the 1.5 acre River Village appears on the eastern bank of the narrow canal. River Village, when it was built, replaced four blocks of former industrial landscape on this site, and now features a one acre park surrounded by 102 townhomes and 15 apartments. A generous riverwalk featuring landscaped walkways carries on the aforementioned riverwalk, connecting to other nearby developments and engaging the riverfront as a walkable public amenity.

Once the North Branch of the river meets up with the Canal at the North Avenue Turning Basin (That wide section at the north tip of Goose Island known for the kayak launch!) it’ll be about three miles until you reach the Belmont River Club, the site of a townhome development for which FitzGerald designed the final portion. With its townhomes arranged around landscaped and hardscaped areas and parking handled along the outside perimeter of the development, Belmont River Club is an early example of a highly walkable, family-friendly land plan on an urban infill site.

Between Irving Park Road and Montrose Avenue–positioned just across the river from Horner Park–you’ll find the first of two tracts of River Residences, a distinctive set of seven split-level single-family homes designed especially for their riverfront sites. Built on 25’ lots, the homes accommodate parking with front-loading garages and enjoy expansive views of the Chicago river complete with large rear yards and private decks. Another six River Residences can be found on North Jersey Avenue just north of Bryn Mawr Avenue–separated slightly from the North Shore Channel by Channel Park, a 6.5 mile series of parks and trails that run from Lawrence Avenue up to Green Bay Road in Evanston.