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Chris Kennedy at Wolf Point. Photography by Neil Burger

On Point

by Matt Lee | Men's Book Chicago magazine | September 13, 2012

More than a century after Daniel Burnham began pondering what should be done with Wolf Point, Chris Kennedy has an answer for him. In May, former Merchandise Mart President Kennedy, representing his extended family’s company, Kennedy Enterprises, unveiled plans for the site—the singular parcel of land where the North, South and Main branches of the Chicago River meet, just west of the Merchandise Mart. The Kennedys sold the Mart, acquired by family patriarch Joseph Kennedy in the mid-’40s, in 1998 but held onto Wolf Point, currently a park and parking lot.

As befits a location that everyone from Burnham to Joseph Kennedy has spent mulling the fate of over the years, the plans don’t disappoint. Designed by Pelli Clark Pelli Architects, they include three towers: A 525-foot luxury rental property on the west side of the point, construction on which is to begin by late fall, a market-driven 950-foot commercial tower to the south and a market-driven 750-foot commercial tower to the east. The development will see more than $1 billion invested in the city, create 2,000 construction and permanent jobs and generate more than $35 million in tax revenue. “I don’t think anyone graduated from architecture school in Chicago in the last 30 years without drawing up plans for Wolf Point,” says Kennedy with a laugh. “The current market, the energy with the new mayor, Chicago’s continued reputation as the most livable city in the United States—all of those factors have come together to create great momentum for the project.”

No small factor in pulling the trigger on the development is a renaissance at Kennedy’s old stomping grounds. “The Merchandise Mart is going through a great transformation,” he says. “There are hundreds of tech firms moving in, and the people working there need a place to live. They want perfect execution and great design.”

Residents won’t be the only Chicagoans to benefit from the development, though. As massive as they are, the trio of towers will cover only 22 percent of the site, with the rest of the land developed as parks and a new river walk extending from the Orleans Street bridge to just south of Kinzie Street. It’s been a long time coming, but Wolf Point is worth the wait.