The 75-foot-deep hole at the old Chicago Spire site has been a symbol of unfulfilled potential and the last undeveloped parcel of land along the convergence of the river and Lake Michigan.

That is until now, Related Midwest president Curt Bailey said on June 17 during a ground-breaking ceremony held at the site. The event marked the last opportunity to see the massive hole before it’s permanently covered ahead of Related’s construction of 400 Lake Shore Drive.

The $500 million development will include two residential towers and several acres of open green space. The higher tower, at 72 stories on the northern portion of the site, will lead the first phase of the project.

The towers were designed as a gateway and homage to the former settling place of Chicago’s founder, Jean-Baptiste Point DuSable.

“It bridges the gap between this location’s past and its future,” Bailey said. “Just as this site welcomed the city’s first non-native settler, Jean-Baptiste Point DuSable, it will once again serve as a gateway, welcoming everyone to Chicago for generations to come.”

Related acquired the former Spire site in 2014 via bankruptcy court. It was vacant, but prior developers Garrett Kelleher and Steve Ivankovich left behind the large crater that was to be part of a 2,000-foot-tall condo tower, making it the tallest in the Western Hemisphere.

Related has since spent seven years on just the design, said Ann Thompson, Related’s executive vice president of architecture and design. She said the two towers are the result of Related finding a balance between a project they believe is executable and leveraging the foundation that’s already in-ground.

“We knew the site did not need another fail,” Thompson said. “It was really important to come up with something that’s doable in our city, in our time, in this moment.”

The towers were designed by the Chicago office of Skidmore, Owings & Merrill and architect David Childs, who was behind One World Trade Center. The interiors were designed by New York-based MAWD.

Thompson said the buildings are on an angle to mimic a “welcoming gesture” and preserve views for residents. The positioning also helps temper unruly lakefront wind conditions, she said.

Related vice president Nick Millot said 400 Lake Shore Drive will be a three-year project. The first units will be delivered in spring 2027. BOWA Construction and Related’s LR Contracting Co. will first tackle the underground parking before starting work on the northern tower.

The first high-rise will consist of 635 apartments, with 20 percent set aside as affordable. The units will be a mix of studio, one-bedroom, two-bedroom and three-bedroom units.

Bailey said adding affordable housing to a desirable waterfront site was an important part of the project.

“There’s a lot of talk, a lot of advocating for affordable housing,” Bailey said. “We need to focus on actually building affordable housing.”

400 Lake Shore Drive is a “huge improvement” for the neighborhood, said Ciere Boatright, commissioner of Chicago’s Department of Planning and Development. The construction will create “hundreds” of temporary and permanent jobs.

Brendan Reilly, alderman of Chicago’s 42nd ward, said it’s “a travesty” that the site sat undeveloped for nearly two decades.

“This is one of the premier development sites in the entire city of Chicago,” Reilly said.

Reilly also said 400 Lake Shore Drive will fulfill a long-awaited promise — the delivery of DuSable Park. The park’s land was gifted to the Chicago Park District by former mayor Harold Washington in 1987.

Related will lead construction on the 3.3-acre park, and it’s making a $10 million commitment to the project. Due to the logistical difficulties of the site, the park will also be used to stage construction materials, Thompson said. The Chicago Riverwalk will likewise be extended during the first phase of construction.

The park is currently in the design phase, said Rosa Escareño, general superintendent and CEO of the Chicago Park District.

“We know this park will be a great contribution and addition to Chicago’s already beautiful parks — and a new destination not only for the residents of this beautiful building, but for the entire city that will have access to this entire space,” Escareño said.