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Cranes Reign: A Record-Breaking 53 Tower Cranes Have Operated In 2017, City Says

By Stephen Gossett in News on Sep 28, 2017 4:20PM

Flickr / Photo: bradhoc

Anyone searching for proof of Chicago's "building boom" need only look up.

A record-breaking 53 tower cranes have operated in Chicago in 2017, Mayor Rahm Emanuel and the Department of Buildings announced earlier this week.

The big No. 53 was installed at a transit-oriented development, called The Lincoln Common, a 94,000-square-feet mixed-user at 2345 N. Lincoln Ave., where the Children's Memorial Hospital once operated.

According to the city, 31 cranes are still currently installed on construction sites, with another seven in the pipeline. At no other point since the Great Recession has the city's skyline been dotted with so many tower cranes. (The number dwindled all the way down to 12 in 2010, according to the city.)

"People are optimistic about the future of Chicago. They want to move here, they want to invest here and they want to build here,” said Emanuel in a release. "As Chicago’s economy continues to get stronger, we will continue to partner with businesses, big and small, to keep this progress going."

The trend carries on from last year's spike. The crane count increase in 2016 was "remarkable," with the number doubling over a six-month period "due to the pent-up number of projects that are shaking loose after the recession," according to most recent RLB Crane Index, which was released in January.

The index singled in on the boom in the West Loop and River North, where "a younger population migrating to the city core for its amenities and to follow the tech-driven companies" has helped spur residential construction trends toward high-rise living.

RLB wrote earlier this year:

"The booming residential sector is anticipated to slow down by the end of 2017, as the number of units flooding the market may reach the 10,000 mark. A few office buildings are under construction with several more commercial projects in the pipeline near West Loop. A development trend is projected to move further west to West Town or south to Pilsen and Little Italy due to Aldermanic pressure to release congestion before population in these areas reaches maximum capacity."

Whether or not that boom does indeed decline remains to be seen, but even if it does, it'll follow unprecedented growth in at least one barometer, even as the city recently faced an overall population decline.