Sterling Bay to develop city’s tallest timber tower since the Great Chicago Fire

by Emily Mack

A Sterling Bay rendering

Sterling Bay has announced plans for a nine-story multifamily development — made of timber. Located at 2100 N. Southport Ave., it will be the tallest timber building constructed in the city since before the Great Chicago Fire.

That fire, which burned more than three square miles of central Chicago in 1871, paved the way for the modern architecture the city is famous for today. It also shed light on the dangers of wooden architecture. At the time, buildings were predominately built upon wooden frames, as were the sidewalks and roads, which magnified the destruction of the fire.

However, recent advancements in adhesives have led builders to reconsider the material. With the creation of fire-resistant, laminated timber alternatives, certain woods are appearing as sustainable and durable options for new developments

The structure on Southport Ave., designed by Hartshorne Plunkard Architecture, will include 130 residential units and feature exposed timber details throughout the building. “Mass timber buildings are safe, sustainable and beautiful, and we are excited to lead the Chicago real estate community in working with this innovative building material,” Sterling Bay CEO Andy Gloor said in a press release.

In the same release, Ray Hartshorne, of Hartshorne Plunkard Architecture, explained that the material will reduce the building’s carbon footprint. “Timber is renewable, global and can be easily harvested and sustainably managed to assure regrowth and replenishment,” he said, noting that construction timelines are faster for timber buildings.

Chicago Ald. Brian Hopkins (2nd) is also championing the development, throwing his support behind both Sterling Bay and Hartshorne Plunkard Architecture: “two hometown firms,” as Hopkins puts it. “Chicago’s rich history of architectural innovation is one of our city’s most notable contributions to the global community,” he said. “And it’s very exciting to know that this groundbreaking new mass-timber development will be constructed right here in Lincoln Park.”

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