Outer Drive East, 400 East Randolph, New East Side

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When it was completed in 1963, the 40-story, 955-unit Outer Drive East was the world’s largest apartment building, the only residential building east of Michigan Ave in Chicago’s Loop, and the only Loop high-rise east of One Prudential Plaza. It was also a triumph of Chicago politics: Mayor Richard J. Daley instructed the city planning department to do “everything possible” to make the development happen on land previously zoned for commercial use, partially subject to legal disputes, and needing an extension of Randolph Street to access it.

Outer Drive East is now distinguished as the shortest and widest of the wall of towers looking south on Millennium Park and Grant Park. The soaring concrete panels that bracket each tier of the building’s balconies make it instantly recognizable and anchor its architectural heritage firmly in the 1960s.

Outer Drive East, which converted to condos in 1973, takes its name from the fact that it was once located east of Lake Shore Drive. For two decades the geodesic glass dome enclosing its swimming pool was a landmark for motorists stalled in traffic on the Drive’s infamous S curve. When Lake Shore Drive was rerouted in the early 1980s, the building found itself north of the Drive, and the domed pool was no longer visible to passing motorists.

The location

Outer Drive East is in a part of the Loop that’s come to be known as the New East Side. The building is part of the wall of high-rises that marks the northern boundary of Grant Park and Millennium Park. It’s within easy walking distance of the Loop and Michigan Avenue, and has a “Very walkable” WalkScore of 78.

The AIA Guide to Chicago characterizes the area as “a self-contained city of offices, shops, apartments, and hotels. Master planning in this case seems to have been a euphemism for squeezing the maximum density onto the land. There is no hierarchy of buildings or spaces, just a thicket of structures competing for land, light and – in the postmodern era – visual dominance.”

The increased residential density brought by the Lakeshore East development has led to a greater selection of shops and restaurants in the area, and the Loop and North Michigan Avenue shops, dining; theater, cultural venues and nightlife are nearby.

Casual visitors to the area might easily miss the below-ground selection of shops and restaurants at Metra’s sleek new Millennium Station, at Randolph St and Michigan Ave.

One of the drawbacks to the location, inconvenient access to a major supermarket, will be overcome late this summer with the opening of a 55,000 square foot Mariano’s Fresh Market at Lakeshore East.

The New East Side community organization Web site provides a great overview of what’s happening in the area and what residents are concerned about.

Transportation. The tri-level street grid in the area, which separates local, service and through traffic, is confusing to newcomers but easily mastered and provides quick access to Lake Shore Drive. Expressway access is not as convenient, and can be difficult at peak times.

Millennium Station, a long block west on Randolph St, provides access to Metra’s Electric Line and the South Shore Line, connecting residents quickly to McCormick Place, Hyde Park, Chicago’s southern suburbs and northwest Indiana.

A variety of bus routes converge on Millennium Station, providing access to all parts of Chicago and to other train stations. Several of the routes extend east and stop at Outer Drive East. A private Outer Drive East shuttle bus connects residents to the Loop and Streeterville.

Overview

Outer Drive East is also known as the 400 East Randolph Street Condominiums.

The T-shaped 40-story building, designed by Reinheimer and Associates, originally had 955 studio, one- and two-bedroom apartments. It currently has 955 condo units, including 2 penthouses, 54 combined units, and 15 commercial spaces.

Building amenities. The building has a wide range of amenities, highlighted by the 400 East Fitness & Spa, in the glass dome, which recently underwent an award-winning $4 million renovation. 400 East has a heated swimming pool, hot tub, basketball and racquetball courts, fitness equipment, men’s and women’s locker rooms with showers, steam and sauna, a children’s play area, sun deck, winter garden, and more.

The building also has a hospitality room with a full kitchen, library, hair salon, package and receiving room, bike rooms, laundry and storage lockers.

Commercial space. The commercial spaces at Outer Drive East host professional services offices, a dry cleaners and tailor, City Segway Tours and a convenience food mart, among others. Lakefront Childrens Academy, a private pre-school, serves children aged two through six.

Seven Bar & Restaurant, on the seventh floor, has had great reviews at Yelp. One reviewer called it a “little piece of suburban dive bar” while others touted its cheap drinks, good bar food and great service.

Resident services. The building has on-site management and engineering staff, 24-hour security and maintenance staff, and 16-hour door staff. Electronic entry is with key fobs. Board meetings are televised.

A shuttle bus connects residents to the Loop, South Loop and Streeterville.

Pets. Owners, but not renters, may have up to two cats or dogs, subject to height and weight limits.

Parking. The building has 645 on-site monthly rental parking spaces on 3 heated floors and an outdoor level. Discounted guest parking tickets are available for resident purchase.

Floor plans. Standard floor plans for each tier in the building are available online.

Unit amenities. Unit amenities vary widely due to the age of the building and its nearly 40-year tenure as a condo association.

All of the 1-bedroom and larger units, and some tiers of convertible studios, have balconies. Some have in-unit washers and dryers, but most do not.

Monthly assessments. Management has yet to return a phone call we’ve placed to verify what’s included in the monthly assessment.

Elevators. Four passenger elevators serve floors 5, 7 and 23-40; three passenger elevators serve floors 5-23; an east lobby elevator serves floors 5, 6 and 7; and two service elevators serve floors 1 through 40.

Owner-occupancy exceeds 80%.

Rentals. Short-term rentals and time-sharing arrangements are prohibited.

Reserves. Information about the financial state of the association is not available at this time.

Management. The association is managed by The Habitat Company.

Web site. The building has an official Web site where you can find detailed information about building amenities and services, floor plans and more. A variety of resident services are accessible through the building Web site.

Condominium documents are online, but only available to residents.

Views. South-facing units have excellent permanent views of Grant Park and Millennium Park. Units in other tiers have seen their views degraded by construction at Lakeshore East and Illinois Center. One long-time resident lamented that he once enjoyed fantastic views of Navy Pier and the fireworks, but “these days I can still hear the fireworks and if I look at the glass on the other high-rises I can see the fireworks in the reflection.”

Alternatives to Outer Drive East

If you’re attracted to the immediate area you’ll find a large number of alternative choices, both for sale and for rent.

Pats and pans

As you’d expect, any complex of this size has its fans and its foes, and aspects of living here that some might pan turn others into fans. Views are either a positive or a negative, depending on the unit. The building’s pedestrian 60s architectural style has been a turnoff for some, an irrelevancy for many.

Share your take on Outer Drive East

If you’ve lived at or visited Outer Drive East, add your thoughts in a comment. Comments are moderated, and commercial messages are not allowed.

Outer Drive East, 400 East Randolph

Address 400 E Randolph St
City Chicago
# of Units 955
Pets Cats and dogs OK, subject to limits

Parking 645 on-site monthly rental spaces
Completed 1963
Management The Habitat Company
Website Outer Drive East

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