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50 Years Since Marina City Groundbreaking

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Marina City

(Credit: CBS 2 Chicago )

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CHICAGO (CBS) - Marina City appears in postcards, paintings and almost every skyline shot of Chicago, and Monday marks the 50th anniversary of the groundbreaking for the complex.

Marina City stands high above the Chicago River, on a full city block between Dearborn and State streets.

Groundbreaking for the building was held on Nov. 22, 1960. The late Mayor Richard J. Daley was present, along with Marina City architect Bertrand Goldberg, and Marina City Building Corporation president Charles Swibel, who later became head of the Chicago Housing Authority.

And the architect’s son, Jeffery, calls it “an architectural candy store.”

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Jeffery Goldberg is also an architect.

It is perhaps with a slight bit of bias (he is the architect’s son, after all) when he says Marina City is “one of the most daring projects ever imagined.”

“It was, in its time, the highest apartment towers, the densest development in the city … and the first to bring housing downtown.”

The complex was completed in 1964. When the towers were completed, they were the world’s tallest apartment buildings, and the tallest buildings in the world that were constructed from reinforced concrete.

The Marina City complex is composed of two 65-story corncob-shaped towers, each with 18 floors of parking; a floor with laundry, storage, workout and meeting rooms; 32 floors of studio and one-bedroom apartments; eight floors of one- and two-bedroom apartments; a roof deck; and a penthouse.

On the north edge is a 16-story building that is occupied by Hotel Sax and the Bin 36 restaurant and wine bar. Also in the complex are a two-story commercial platform that is built over an active marina, and a saddle-shaped building that houses the House of Blues.

Marina City also used to be known for two antennas that soared from the west tower, which were used by local TV stations before the John Hancock Center and Willis Tower were built. The broadcast antennas were taken down in 1978.

Since they were completed, the Marina towers have taken their place among Chicago’s most iconic buildings. They are featured on everything from the front cover of the Wilco album “Yankee Hotel Foxtrot” to the opening shot of the Bob Newhart Show – although Newhart’s character did not live there.

More recently, a car was driven off one of the parking garage floors in the towers for an Allstate insurance commercial in 2006.

Car Off Marina City

A car is driven off Marina City for an Allstate commercial in 2006. (Credit: CBS)

Architect Goldberg is also responsible for the River City residential complex in the South Loop, and the Hilliard Homes public housing development just east of Chinatown.

The Skokie-based Portland Cement Association will hold a news conference at 10:30 a.m. at the Hotel Sax, to celebrate Goldberg’s achievement. His son, architect Geoffrey Goldberg, will speak, according to Chicago Tribune architecture columnist Blair Kamin.

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