Mark Byrnes is a senior associate editor at CityLab who writes about design and architecture.
Construction of the tallest tower in the western hemisphere ground to a halt in 2008. But it may be back on track, thanks to a new deal.
That big hole in the ground near Chicago's Navy Pier may become the tallest building in the western hemisphere after all.
The Chicago Spire, a 2,000-foot-tall residential tower designed by Santiago Calatrava, broke ground in 2007, with apartments selling for between $750,000 and $40,000,000. Construction ground to a halt just one year later, due to financial problems.
A promotional video for the Spire before construction came to a halt.
The Spire went into receivership in 2010. Last year, a bankruptcy judge ruled that Shelbourne had until March 2014 to put together a reorganization plan. This week, the developers reached an agreement with property company Related. Should the U.S. Bankruptcy court approve of the new deal, construction could resume imminently.
Completing the Spire is expected to cost more than $1 billion. That means, according to the Irish Times, that the 1,200 units in the tower would have to sell for at least $2,000 a square foot to be profitable. Nearby Trump Tower (currently the city's second tallest) took nearly a decade to sell its 486 luxury apartments at a comparable price.
Despite the legal complications, architecture fans are cautiously optimistic. The Chicago Architecture Foundation even put a model version back on display in its atrium, which houses the world's largest full-scale model of the city.
For CAF, it's not just about building over an embarrassing hole in the ground, but adding a new layer to the city skyline. "It's the perfect balance between the Willis Tower and Hancock Tower," says Lynn Osmond, CEO and President of the Foundation.
And after the Council on Tall Buildings and Urban Habitat designated Manhattan's Freedom Tower to be taller than the Willis Tower, despite its "vanity height," Chicago may need the kind of pick-me-up of that can only be found through a new super-tall structure. "We still don't acknowledge the Freedom Tower's spire," says Osmond.