CHICAGO-Harry Cobb’s architectural firm is noted for such projects as Boston’s John Hancock Tower, Fountain Place in Dallas and the Holocaust Museum in Washington, DC. However, it took him more than a half-century to design his first building in Chicago.

Pei Cobb Freed Associates, LLP is responsible for the design of the triangular Hyatt Center at 71 S. Wacker Dr. with a curved front along Monroe Street.

“Every architect in the country dreams of building in Chicago,” Cobb says during a ceremonial groundbreaking Thursday. “I’ve been dreaming of building in Chicago for 54 years.”

While the Daley administration has convinced other developers to copy the landscaped roof atop city hall, Cobb is proud of a tree-lined garden he envisions along Monroe Street.

“I feel strongly that tall buildings, while they make a mark on a city’s skyline, they have an obligation as citizens to make a mark at the street level,” Cobb says.

While security moved to the top of developers’ priority lists following Sept. 11, 2001, tenants’ needs also played a role in a re-design of the building ordered by Penny Pritzker, whose Pritzker Realty Group, LP is co-developing Hyatt Center with Higgins Development Partners, LLC. For instance, an atrium was scrapped, Pritzker tells Thursday.

“It was a beautiful building, but it did not appeal to the tenants,” Pritzker tells “I said then, it makes no sense to proceed.”

Once Pritzker put the project back on track, Goldman Sachs & Co. needed a trading floor close to ground level. International law firm Mayer, Brown, Rowe & Maw also had requirements for their operations, adds Pritzker, a key figure in the high-stakes juggling act to satisfy all parties (See: Persistence Clears Way for Hyatt Center.).

One benefit was reduced costs, Pritzker says, telling the original design had a price tag more than $100 million higher than the ultimate $427-million project.

While noting the design represents a departure from the more common rectangular Chicago skyscraper, Cobb says the shape of the building also accommodates the varying needs of the three anchor tenants.

“This building really represents optimism about our future,” Pritzker says. “Not only about the future of Chicago, but the future of our world.”

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