Fifield Cos.' K Station development in Chicago's West Loop brings new meaning to the term “transitoriented site.” The incredibly complex transportation hub, which served as the original railroad terminal in Chicago called Kinzie Station, includes a subway tunnel and an adjacent rail line. But that's not all: Plans call for a high-speed rail line to run through the middle of the site and a bus depot to be built on the edge of the development.

The firm, which has seen its fair share of taxing, urban projects, readily admits that the $750 million endeavor is in a league of it own. Among the laundry lists of challenges: The 350-unit property currently dubbed 353 N. Des Plaines at K Station. which is under construction, has two live subway tunnels below the site. As a result, the construction team had to reshape the building to get it out of the subway easement, design the parking garage with a shallow mat foundation, and then calculate and monitor the settlement that would occur over the subway tunnels during construction.

The second property to grace K Station, the 350-unit 353 N. Des Plaines, is expected to be completed next summer.
The second property to grace K Station, the 350-unit 353 N. Des Plaines, is expected to be completed next summer.

“On a daily basis we have to make sure that our cranes don't swing any loads over the working tracks to our south,” says Alan Schachtman, a senior vice president at Fifield. “In addition, there were numerous utilities that were on both sides of the site that our surveys did not show, and we had to figure out how and where to relocate them without cutting off service.”

As if those challenges aren't enough, the team is spending a great deal of time and money to buffer the sounds of the noisy trains and buses from the residential units. At Left Bank, the first building in K Station to open, a parking lot with a landscaped terrace was strategically placed behind the site to minimize the sound of two train lines that cross at the back of the property. Other soundproofing methods include triple-glazed windows with isolated frames, vibration insulation for the building's foundation, and carpets with extra padding.

Fortunately, residents at Left Bank don't mind the sound of passing trains, and units with train views were actually among the first to lease up, says Rick Cavenaugh, president and COO of Fifield. “People walk into the units and see the train and go, ‘Wow, cool!'”

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