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The Chicago Spire is a skyscraper under construction in the U.S.marker city of Chicagomarker, Illinoismarker. Construction work began in 2007 but was put on hold in 2008 before any of the superstructure had been built. The building was designed by Spanish architect Santiago Calatrava and is being developed by Garrett Kelleher of Shelbourne Development Group, Inc. If completed, at and with 150 floors, it will be among the world's tallest buildings and freestanding structures.

Originally announced in May 2005 by Christopher T. Carley of the Fordham Company, the project was supported by many Chicagoans and city officials. After several months of development, Carley failed to acquire necessary financing and the project was taken over by Garrett Kelleher of the Shelbourne Development Group. Since that time, three major revisions were made to the design. Construction of the Chicago Spire has stopped and will not resume until the markets improve from the subprime mortgage crisis. On October 8, 2008, Santiago Calatrava filed a lien on the project stating that the developer has yet to pay him the $11.34 million owed for his work, casting some doubt over the future of the project.


Fordham Spire

Originally proposed as the Fordham Spire in July 2005, the design called for 115 stories. Chicago developer Christopher T. Carley of the Fordham Company was spearheading the project. The building was planned to include a hotel and condominiums and also featured a tall broadcast antenna mast. On March 16, 2006, the initial design of the building passed unanimously during that day's meeting of the Chicago Plan Commission and on March 23, 2006, the same happened at the city's Zoning Committee meeting. On March 29, 2006, The Chicago City Council also approved that design. As part of the approval process, the council passed a measure that raised the height limit on structures at the site to accommodate the tower.

There was widespread support for the original design of the building among both the residents of the immediate neighborhood and the city of Chicago as a whole, partly because the building would block less sunlight and obscure less of the skyline than would the uses for which the land was originally zoned. Chicago Mayor Daley said he approved of the design, stating that it was environmentally friendly. Chicago's 42nd Ward Alderman Burton F. Natarus, who was the local ward alderman when the building was announced, said: "This is a very unique opportunity for the city of Chicago. This building belongs to Chicago and should be in Chicago."

Opposition from some neighborhood residents originated from concerns with increased congestion. Donald Trump immediately voiced opposition to the building, stating that the structure would be a target for terrorists and did not even seem to be a viable project. One of his projects, however, the Trump International Hotel and Towermarker, is also a skyscraper that completed construction in January 2009 just a few blocks west of the Chicago Spire site; the building would be displaced by the Chicago Spire as the tallest residential structure in the United States, and would also be in direct competition with the tower in selling residential units.

New designs

In the final quarter of 2006, Shelbourne Development issued two separate press release regarding the construction and design of the spire. A November 2006 press release stated that construction of the Chicago Spire would begin in June 2007. In early December 2006, Shelbourne Development issued another press release stating that the design of the building had been revised. This included the removal of the hotel and antenna mast, making the building composed solely of condominium units. The design change altered the twist to be consolidated towards the base of the building, which was also wider than the original plan. Additionally, the spire no longer tapered at the top, resulting in an increase in floor space and overall floor count. The revision also removed the separate parking structure from the original plan, instead incorporating underground parking into the spire itself. This first major redesign of the Chicago Spire was criticized by architectural critics and city officials.

In late December 2006, the Chicago Tribune reported that the developer was soliciting opinions on a further revision from community leaders. Several weeks following that report the Chicago Tribune held an exclusive interview with architect Santiago Calatrava and lead developer Garrett Kelleher. During the interview, Calatrava drew out design ideas restoring the rotating design of the building and showcasing his vision for the Chicago Spire's lobby. On March 26, 2007, further revisions were shown during a public presentation by Shelbourne Development showcasing the most recent design.


Following the March 26, 2007 public presentation by Shelbourne Development, residents showed favorable reaction to the newest design of the Chicago Spire. The Chicago Plan Commission approved the final plans of the Chicago Spire on April 19, 2007. Chicago's zoning committee also approved the tower on April 26 and, on May 9, 2007, the Chicago City Council approved the final design of the Chicago Spire.


In June 2008, Shelbourne had sold more than 350 of the 1,193 units—more than half of those to foreign investors in markets where certain United States Securities and Exchange Commission regulations do not apply. Shelbourne announced on September 30, 2008 that the building's penthouse was sold to Beanie Babies manufacturer Ty Warner. Kelleher has offered to rent out units at a guaranteed 7.5% return to spur sales. The plan is common outside the United States where it is marketed more heavily and should spur sales of the smallest units which are most likely to be purchased as rental property investments by foreigners.

Financial problems

After several months of development, Carley failed to obtain sufficient financing for the construction of the building. Irish developer Garrett Kelleher, executive chairman of Shelbourne Development Group, Inc., stepped in and acquired the land, at 400 North Lake Shore Drive. It was announced that he would fund the development. With Kelleher taking over the project, much of the uncertainty of its development was diminished because he was putting up 100% of the equity, something Carley had been unable to do. He also had financial backing to acquire the land, something Carley lacked. Kelleher stated he would consider using Carley's services on the development and that "Carley will be paid an unspecified sum for his involvement in the deal so far." Kelleher later renamed the project "Chicago Spire" after shortly going by "400 North Lake Shore Drive", as it was no longer a Fordham project. In October 2008, the tower's architect, Santiago Calatrava, placed an $11.34 million (USD) lien on the construction site, stating that Kelleher has not yet paid him for his work.

In late 2009, the AFL-CIO and Kelleher announced that they were in "advanced" talks. The talks included a potential $170 million land loan that would retire Kelleher's loan from Anglo Irish Bank, pay off outstanding liens (such as Calatrava's), and restart work in exchange for making the construction a 100% union job.


A factory at the Chicago Spire site in 1963.
The skyscraper is being constructed along Chicago's lake front west of Navy Piermarker, located northeast of Chicago's Loopmarker, in the Streetervillemarker neighborhood of the Near North Sidemarker community area. The construction site is at the junction of Lake Michiganmarker and the Chicago Rivermarker, and is bordered by the Ogden Slip of the Chicago River to the north, North Lake Shore Drivemarker to the east, the Chicago River to the south, and existing residential property to the west. The site was originally zoned for two 35- to 50-story buildings. Originally, it was to be sold by a joint venture of LR Development Company of Chicago and JER Partners of Virginia for $64 million to Christopher Carley of the Fordham Company. After numerous short-term extensions, and later Carley's failure to obtain financing, Kelleher of Shelbourne Development purchased the land instead and pledged to finance the rest of the project.

DuSable Park

When the project was first announced, the Fordham Company pledged almost $500,000 to assist in the development of the city's proposed DuSable Parkmarker, which would adjoin the property of the Chicago Spire. DuSable Park would span and has a $11.4 million budget for its renovation. On March 26, 2007, Shelbourne pledged to pay $6 million toward the development of the park, making up the deficit left over from the city's own initial pledge of $6 million and far exceeding the Fordham Co's initial offer. In May 2007 Shelbourne's pledge jumped to $9.6 million.

Soil tests performed in December 2000 on the property of the proposed park showed contamination of radioactive thorium. Thorium was used by the Lindsay Light Company which operated a location nearby. After the closing of the location in the 1930s, contaminated soil was dumped on the location of the proposed park. In March 2003, the Chicago Park District stated that the thorium clean-up on that land was incomplete. Hazards of contamination can be avoided by laying a minimum of of concrete over any affected soil, a process which would be more feasible for the site of the Chicago Spire than for the adjacent park.



An early design of the building.
As with many of his designs, Calatrava has been inspired by themes and designs in nature for the tall, twisting skyscraper. For the design of the building, he likened the structure to an imaginary smoke spiral coming from a campfire near the Chicago Rivermarker lit by Native Americans indigenous to the area, and also related the building's newly designed pinnacle to the "graceful" and "rotating forms" of a snail shell.

Standing at , the Chicago Spire would further transform the always-changing Chicago skyline. Plans for the tower include 1,193 condominiums with each of the building's 150 stories rotating 2.4 degrees from the one below for a total 360 degree rotation. In February 2008, prices for the condominiums were announced as ranging from $750,000 to $40 million USD. For supplemental structural support, each floor would be surrounded by cantilevered corners and four concave sides. Similar to the Willis Tower (formerly Sears Tower) and John Hancock Centermarker observation decks, the Chicago Spire will house a community room at the top floor offering residents a view of four states. The soaring four story lobby of the skyscraper will have translucent glass walls and be framed by arching, steel reinforced concrete vaults. The building has been labeled as a giant "drill bit" by the public and others in the media have likened it to a "tall twisting tree" and a "blade of grass".

The curved design, similar to that of Calatrava's Turning Torsomarker in Malmömarker, Swedenmarker, may provide two major benefits to the structure of the building. First, curved designs have a tendency of adding to the strength of a structure. A similar principle has been applied in the past with curved stadium roofs. In addition to structural support, the curved face of the exterior will minimize wind forces. In rectangular buildings, a fluid wind flow puts pressure on the windward face of the building; while air moves around it, a suction is applied to the leeward face. This often causes a sway in tall buildings which can be counteracted, at least partially, by stiffening the structure or by using a dynamic wind damper. Although the curved design of the Chicago Spire will not completely negate wind forces, a tapering concrete core and twelve shear walls emanating from it are installed to counteract these forces instead.

Additionally, the Chicago Spire will incorporate world-class sustainable engineering practices to meet Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design Gold recognition. Sustainable features include recycled rainwater, river water used for cooling, ornithologically-sensitive glass to protect migratory birds, intelligent building and management systems, waste storage and recycling management, and monitored outdoor air delivery.


Following the city approval, it was announced that construction of the Chicago Spire was to begin in summer 2007 with caisson scheduled to begin as early as June 2007. DuSable Park was designated as a staging area for the construction of the tower. The sales center for the Chicago Spire opened on January 14, 2008.

On September 19, 2008, a spokeswoman for the developer announced that construction was continuing on the building, but that the pace of construction will be slowed until the financial markets improve from the subprime mortgage crisis. Kelleher has promised that he still has financial backing, although analysts have questioned the ability of the project to survive the current economic decline. A contractor to build the building's superstructure has not yet been named. The October 1, 2008 edition of The Wall Street Journal said that the building foundation was complete and the above ground construction would not continue until the markets recover. The construction of the tower has thus been on-hold since October 2008.

On March 24, 2009, Shelbourne Development announced that the firm was in talks with the American Federation of Labor and Congress of Industrial Organizations (AFL-CIO) to pay for the construction of the skyscraper; funding may allow construction to begin before the market recovery. The AFL-CIO was interested in funding the Chicago Spire, as its construction would mean the creation of thousands of unionized construction jobs for up to five years. The AFL-CIO estimates that it has up to $2.5 billion in assets in its Building Investment Trust Fund.

Underground phase

Crane parts and construction equipment arrived at the site on June 25, 2007. The following day Shelbourne Development officially announced the first construction contract. In preparation for construction, 34 concrete and steel caissons were drilled into bedrock underground; this was completed June 25, 2008. A cofferdam with a diameter and depth was installed to create a work environment and will later act as a foundation for the building's core. The surrounding neighborhood is receiving a utility upgrade.


File:Fordham Lot2.JPG| Months before construction on April 13, 2006File:ChicagoSpireAug22,20071.JPG|Bedrock being drilled on August 22, 2007File:ChicagoSpire from LakePointTower 1 12 08 closeup.JPG|Closeup of base excavation January 12, 2008File:ChicagoSpire 05 25 08.jpg|May 25, 2008File:Chicago_Spire_2009_11_09.jpg|Update picture of job site on November 11, 2009

See also


Further reading

  • Keegan, E. (2005). Calatrava designing massive tower in Chicago. Architectural Record, 193, 29.
  • McKeoug, T. (2006). Artist at work: Santiago Calatrava. Azure, 22, 56-61.
  • Nobel, P. (2005). Onward and upward? Four years after 9/11 - at perhaps the peak of the real estate bubble - very tall has never been hotter. Metropolis, 25, 66-72.
  • Pridmore, J., & Larson, G.A. (2005) Chicago Architecture and Design : Revised and expanded. Harry N. Abrams, Inc.: New York.


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