After a year of pandemic-induced economic uncertainty, Chicago enters the spring season with one key metric that has remained mostly stable throughout the entire ordeal: the number of tower cranes.
The number of active tower cranes is often viewed as a sign of a healthy real estate market and construction industry, particularly over the last several years as cities raced to make up from the slowdown caused by the Great Recession of 2008. But as construction was declared an essential service during the pandemic, workers continued to make progress on new high-rises throughout the city.
In Chicago, the number of active high-rise construction projects continued to climb in the years following the last recession, reaching 54 towers simultaneously underway by summer 2017. At the time, then-mayor Rahm Emanuel announced a post-recession record number of 54 tower crane starts in 2017. And at one point during summer of 2017, 33 such tower cranes were operating at one time in Chicago.
More recently, the pipeline of high-rise construction in Chicago has slowed, but hasn’t completely dropped off the radar, at least according to construction consulting firm Rider Levett Bucknall’s recently released RLB Crane Index, which reviews and aggregates tower crane data across the country and compares how 14 major metros across North America currently stand among one another.
By the end of the first quarter of 2021, Chicago had just a dozen active tower cranes operating on various high-rise projects. While it’s certainly a lower figure than where the city was just a few years prior, Chicago still leads other major metros such as New York, San Francisco, and Phoenix.
Perhaps not surprisingly, Seattle ended the quarter with 43 tower cranes. The growing city has led the nation in total active tower cranes for at least the last several years. During the summer of 2018, the west coast metro had 65 tower cranes operating at one time.
One such major high-rise construction project underway in Chicago includes the massive One Chicago development in River North which will feature two towers, with the largest topping out at 971 feet. Once completed, the taller tower at One Chicago will become one of the ten tallest buildings in Chicago, but with other supertall projects in the pipeline, it could be bumped out in the coming years.
Other key under-construction downtown high-rise projects include the 60-story Salesforce Tower, the third and final tower for the Wolf Point mega-development, as well as the 1,400-foot-tall supertall addition to the Tribune Tower complex on Michigan Avenue. Notable towers that have been added to the skyline since the beginning of the pandemic include the 101-story St. Regis Chicago (formerly Vista Tower) and 56-story Bank of America Tower at 110 N. Wacker Drive.