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McHugh Construction completes 5th-tallest all-residential building in the U.S.

Rafael Viñoly is the architect for the 896-foot-tall NEMA Chicago. Also completed: the 11-story Westerly.

January 11, 2021 |

The 800-unit NEMA Chicago, recently completed by McHugh Construction, is the city’s tallest rental tower, at 896 feet. Photo: Courtesy Crescent Heights

CHICAGO (Jan. 11, 2021) – James McHugh Construction Co., one of the country’s largest commercial contractors with a concentration in high-end multifamily projects, has completed the ground-up construction of two apartment developments in Chicago: NEMA Chicago by Crescent Heights in the South Loop, and the 11-story Westerly by Fifield Cos. in the River West neighborhood.

At 76 stories, NEMA Chicago is the tallest all-residential building in Chicago and fifth tallest in North America.

"These two projects are indicative of the range of multifamily work McHugh excels at – whether it’s a mid-rise for a repeat client or a supertall, a product we know how to build like the back of our hand," said Michael Meagher, President of McHugh Construction. “While the pandemic added another layer of complexity, our quick pivot to adopting new social distancing protocols allowed us to stay on time and on budget for both of these high-end buildings.”



McHugh Construction recently completed the final phase of the 896-foot NEMA Chicago, the city’s tallest apartment tower. McHugh broke ground in 2016 for the 76-story building and topped off the concrete-framed structure in 2018. Residents began moving into the building in May 2019, while McHugh continued interior build-out of floors 48 through 76. Final completion, including the Skyline Collection residences and the Signature Amenity spaces at Level 48, was achieved in September 2020.

“Thoughtful design and impeccable finishes – from coffered ceilings to ornamental metalwork – were carried throughout the development, requiring us to carefully select a team that could work with the custom materials while hitting timing goals,” said Dave Steffenhagen, McHugh Construction Senior Project Manager on NEMA Chicago. “Through constant collaboration with the owner, architect, and subcontractors, the project met the intent of the designers and was delivered on budget and ahead of schedule.”



Developed by Miami-based Crescent Heights and designed by world-renowned architect Rafael Viñoly, the 76-story NEMA Chicago,1210 S. Indiana Ave., offers 800 apartments. The building’s 70,000 sf of amenity space includes several indoor and outdoor lounges and terraces; two swimming pools; sauna and steam rooms; a glass-enclosed event space with an immersive sound system and catering kitchen; and a private bar lounge with 22-foot ceiling heights and floor-to-ceiling windows. The fitness center includes strength and cardio areas as well as a boxing ring, yoga studio, basketball and squash courts, and a golf simulator. 

NEMA Chicago also gave McHugh the opportunity to complete one of the few “real time” design spaces it’s seen in the multifamily sector. A large section of the building’s 48th floor was intentionally left as a “white box” amenity space until most of the building was completed and residents had already begun to move in. While the space was tentatively earmarked for a yoga studio, the pandemic and popularity of the building’s coworking spaces prompted Crescent Heights to change the design for the space into office/business suites. This meant McHugh had a condensed schedule to order materials and complete construction within the set time frame.

“Tastes, trends, and tenant preferences can change drastically between groundbreaking and first move-ins,” Steffenhagen said. “By leaving this space purposely vacant until the last possible moment in the construction schedule, we were able to work closely with the developer and architects to change course and create additional coworking space for residents.”



Located at 740 N. Aberdeen St., Westerly is a mixed-used development by Chicago-based Fifield Cos. offering 188 apartments and 2,400 sf of ground-floor retail space.

Designed by FitzGerald Associates Architects, the mid-rise building features a brick and glass façade and includes a mix of studio, one-, two- and three-bedroom units, ranging in size from 544 to 1,513 square feet, with interiors by Morgante Wilson Architects. McHugh broke ground on the project in July 2019 and completed the building in October 2020. Substantial completion was received on the project three weeks ahead of schedule despite the pandemic.

“Westerly marks the eighth project we have completed for Fifield Cos. in the last 12 years,” said Ray Cisco, Project Executive with McHugh Construction. "Our previous history with Fifield and FitzGerald facilitated a seamless experience, especially when something unexpected like a pandemic comes up.”


Westerly, Chicago, Fifield Cos.

Westerly, a 188-unit mixed-use apartment building in Chicago by McHugh Construction for Fifield Cos. Photo: Courtesy Fifield Cos.


With Westerly’s location along the city’s Hipster Highway bikeway, McHugh constructed ample bike storage and a bike kitchen for maintenance and repairs, in addition to a parking garage with 80 spaces. Building amenities include a fitness center, resident lounge, penthouse-level party room, coffee bar, conference center, and dedicated coworking space. Outdoor amenities include a landscaped sun terrace on Westerly’s third level, featuring a pool, shade cabanas, grilling stations, and private seating and dining areas.



Since its founding in 1897, James McHugh Construction Co. has earned its reputation as a builder of landmark, one-of-a-kind structures in Chicago and other areas of the country. The company specializes in managing multimillion-dollar projects, from ground-up new construction to complex renovations and high-end interiors. As a multi-faceted general contractor, McHugh constructs high-rise concrete towers; steel structures; and buildings using alternative materials such as cold-formed steel, heavy timber, and cross-laminated timber.

McHugh has built and renovated iconic structures such as Chicago’s Marina City, Vista Tower, Trump Tower, Aqua Tower, Blackstone Hotel, Navy Pier (including the 200-foot-tall Centennial Wheel and most recently, the Sable Hotel at Navy Pier, Curio Collection by Hilton, and the Offshore Rooftop and Bar), as well as other noteworthy projects in regional markets such as Loring Park Tower in Minneapolis, Two Twelve Clayton and Westin Cupples Station in the St. Louis area, and multiple projects in Nashville and Miami. 

For more information on the company, visit www.mchughconstruction.com.

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