The windy city's balancing act

This is part of a mini-series on urban renewal, where we visit three cities that are have different answers to the question ‘to preserve or not to preserve?’. Let’s start with Chicago.


Chicago is home to four of the ten tallest buildings in the United States. With no regulatory limits to high-rise construction, the skyline keeps ambitiously inching skyward. But does that mean it is losing its heritage?

“The best way for Chicago to grow is up rather than out,” affirms Aaron Ites, Head of New Equipment Business, KONE Americas. Landlocked on its eastern side, this Windy City, one of the world’s first high-rise metropolises, has little space for sprawl.

As the third most populous city in the US and a growing commercial hub, Ites foresees Chicago remaining a high-rise capital that offers a good balance of heritage projects and new shiny skyscrapers.

Take for instance the 423-meter Trump Tower, the tallest building erected in the US in 40 years prior to the One World Trade Center, and the Chicago Water Tower, a symbol of Old Chicago and one of the few buildings to survive the Great Chicago Fire of 1871. The co-existence of these structures represent the city’s two-pronged policy on urban renewal.


While pushing for the clouds, Chicago takes a strong sense of pride in its heritage. Parks, fountains, boulevards, and graceful Neo-Classical architecture have earned the city the moniker of “Paris on the Prairie”.

For KONE, this means the best of both worlds. “We are historically the leaders in [equipment] modernization, but we are also strong in the new building segment, with key projects such as the Trump and Hyatt Towers on our reference list,” says Ites. Walk up and down LaSalle Street – Chicago’s Wall Street – and you will see numerous buildings modernized by KONE, including a total of 280 units just on one stretch.

The different parts of KONE’s business support each other, giving its operations a solid base for continued sustainability. Increasing sales of new elevators and escalators enable it to also fuel future growth in its maintenance business.

“And with KONE UltraRope® technology, there are no limits to how high we can go!” says Ites, referring to the super light hoisting cable KONE introduced in 2013 that enables future elevator travel heights of up to one kilometer.

Regardless of how high this windy city goes; it is likely to stay firmly rooted in heritage.

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