The pit dug to accommodate the Chicago Spire, a now-canceled construction project. Flickr/準建築人手札網站 Forgemind ArchiMedia

What happens to a magisterial tower project deferred?

For a brief moment in 2014, there was hope.

The Santiago Calatrava-designed Chicago Spire was supposed to be the tallest tower in the Western Hemisphere, set to loom above the Windy City’s skyline at 2,000 feet. The project’s 1,193 condominiums would go for between $750,000 and $40,000,000. But the Spire announcement came in 2007; the recession followed in 2008. By then, construction workers had already carved a hole 110 feet wide and 76 feet deep. With the developer, Shelbourne, deep in a foreclosure suit, everyone left the Chicago Spire site to its weeds and its dirt.

The year 2014 saw some brief optimism, as Shelbourne announced it had reached a deal with creditors, including the company Related Midwest. But by October, the developer had been forced to turn over the deed for the property. Related Midwest said the Chicago Spire was dead.

Santiago Calatrava shows off a model of the Chicago Spire in 2007. (AP Photo/Charles Rex Arbogast)

So what to do with a large hole in the ground, right along Chicago’s Navy Pier? This month, there’s some movement—though don’t get your hopes up. Reports the Chicago Tribune:

Workers last week started moving dirt to form a landscaped berm that will block the view of the 110-foot diameter hole from a row of 10 Streeterville row homes on the 400 block of East North Water Street.

Eager to dampen excitement that the arrival of work crews might signal a more permanent use of the prime location between the Chicago River and the Ogden Slip harbor, Related Midwest Vice President Nick Anderson recently wrote to neighbors, explaining that workers are simply building a berm and planting trees as "a natural visual screen at their front doors opening to our parcel."

Good news: some neighbors won’t have a direct view of the hole. Bad news: the berm “won't be tall enough to block the view of the hole from nearby high-rise buildings.”

The Chicago Spire hole in 2010. (Flickr/Tom Ravenscrodt)

The Chicago Spire is not the only mega-project done in by the recession. Dubai’s Nakheel Tower was supposed to be 2,460 feet, and died in December 2009. Moscow’s 2,126-foot Russia Tower got nixed that June. Buck up, Chicago: you’re not the only one with an enduring and ugly monument to the financial collapse of 2008.

H/t: Chicagoist

About the Author

Most Popular

  1. photo: A lone tourist in Barcelona, one of several global cities that have seen a massive crash in Airbnb bookings.
    Coronavirus

    Can Airbnb Survive Coronavirus?

    The short-term rental market is reeling from the coronavirus-driven tourism collapse. Can the industry’s dominant player stage a comeback after lockdowns lift?

  2. Illustration: two roommates share a couch with a Covid-19 virus.
    Coronavirus

    For Roommates Under Coronavirus Lockdown, There Are a Lot of New Rules

    Renters in apartments and houses share more than just germs with their roommates: Life under coronavirus lockdown means negotiating new social rules.

  3. A pedestrian wearing a protective face mask walks past a boarded up building in San Francisco, California, U.S., on Tuesday, March 24, 2020. Governors from coast to coast Friday told Americans not to leave home except for dire circumstances and ordered nonessential business to shut their doors.
    Equity

    The Geography of Coronavirus

    What do we know so far about the types of places that are more susceptible to the spread of Covid-19? In the U.S., density is just the beginning of the story.

  4. photo: South Korean soldiers attempt to disinfect the sidewalks of Seoul's Gagnam district in response to the spread of COVID-19.
    Coronavirus

    Pandemics Are Also an Urban Planning Problem

    Will COVID-19 change how cities are designed? Michele Acuto of the Connected Cities Lab talks about density, urbanization and pandemic preparation.  

  5. Equity

    We'll Need To Reopen Our Cities. But Not Without Making Changes First.

    We must prepare for a protracted battle with coronavirus. But there are changes we can make now to prepare locked-down cities for what’s next.

×