Less than 24 hours have passed since British developer Bill Davies unveiled plans for a proposed mega-development on the Near South Side, but it isn't too soon to count the reasons why the proposal is destined for the dustbin. Soon after Crain's published its report on Davies' plans yesterday, a commenter offered this knee-jerk reaction: "Every developer trying to build a new tallest for Chicago has failed since the 1970s. Every developer trying to redevelop the Post Office has also failed. What happens if you try both at THE SAME TIME??" Hard to argue with that. Look no further than the 76-foot-deep hole in the ground in Streeterville for the most recent example of a foreign developer who came to the shores of Lake Michigan with sky-high ambitions, never to be realized. Next, you have to look at the developer's track record. Today, Sun-Times reporter David Roeder tells us about two of Davies' aborted development plans in Liverpool, and that he has developed a reputation as a 'flipper,' not a finisher.
None of that matters if Davies can come up with the money to fund this project, right? Sure, but Davies and his people have offered no explanation of how the megadevelopment would be funded. "Typically, when a developer unveils a major project, there is at least a contingent commitment from some pension fund, some financial syndicate, some sovereign wealth fund, some shadowy Russian billionaire–some somebody," writes David Greising in a column for the Chicago News Cooperative. "In this case, there's nobody."
Greising also identifies an issue with the placement of the 2,000-foot tower: A different developer, J. Paul Beitler, tells him that an air vacuum would be created between the Willis Tower and Davies' 120-story tower, sucking out the windows of both buildings. He also says that radiation from the Willis Tower antennae would make the upper floors hazardous.
And what about the Old Main Post Office building? As Greising points out in his CNC piece, the building is on the National Register of Historic Places, which would prevent the developer from obscuring the public's view of it. In the rendering released yesterday, the nine-story building is buried under one of those enormous parking garages, with a big green roof and a dome over it.
Putting aside all of that and suspending disbelief for a moment, there's also the question of whether this is something that Chicago actually needs or wants. Despite the towers, the development, with its 12,000-car garage, is as anti-urban as it could possibly be, a fact that architect Laurence Booth basically acknowledged when he said, "you have to think about what people really want and, as simple as it sounds, they want free parking," Booth said. "That's why they shop in the suburbs. If we have free parking in the city, they're going to come and park and shop."
· Developer Planning $3.5-Billion "Urban Mecca" at Post Office [Curbed]
· Greising: Post Office Plan a Pipe Dream [CNC]
· Old Post Office developer didn’t make friends with past plans [Sun-Times]