Yesterday Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s aggressive plan to forcibly acquire the Old Post Office from absentee foreign developer Bill Davies by invoking the power of eminent domain received the support of the city’s Community Development Commission. Abandoned since 1995, the 2.7 million-square-foot riverfront site was sold to Davies and his company International Property Developers North America in 2009. The British-born developer gained city approval for a $3.5 billion multi-phase plan to repurpose the Old Post Office and construct of series of peripheral highrise towers across the 12.6 acre site in 2013. Since then, partners like Chicago-based Sterling Bay have come and gone but zero work has actually taken place.
The lack of action on the part of the Davies plus the supposedly unsafe condition of the blighted building over the Eisenhower Expressway ultimately led to City Hall’s announcement last month of its intention to seize the building and fast-track its redevelopment. Now, with the Community Development Commission’s blessing, the next step of the process will involve the City of Chicago’s Department of Planning and Development issuing a March 16 request-for-proposals (RFP) seeking "serious" developers. The city will be accepting proposals until a June 10 deadline and hope to select a new development partner for the massive property on July 8.
Despite owning in excess of $600,000 in back taxes on the property, Bill Davies and his representatives have vowed not to give up without a fight. Charles Hubbard, a consultant for International Property Developers, pleaded for more time. Hubbard claimed that his client was close to announcing a major deal with a "reputable" New York partner that was supposedly in the works for two and a half years, according to Crain’s. Meanwhile Fran Spielman of the Chicago Sun-Times reported that Davies’ attorney Joseph Bisceglia warned that the government’s transfer of property from one private entity to another sets a dangerous and slippery precedent. Bisceglia also did not rule out a court challenge from Davies and IPD by stating that any developer answering the city’s new RFP could be "buying yourself potential litigation."
It remains to be seen if the City Hall’s eminent domain maneuver will lead to the quick redevelopment of one of Chicago’s largest and most prominent pieces of riverfront real estate or will represent the beginning of a messy, protracted legal quagmire. As Emanuel is learning with the controversial land transfer for the lakefront Lucas Museum, the combination of clout and sheer political determination doesn’t necessarily trump the slow-moving wheels of the legal system like it used to.
·Emanuel gets the go-ahead to seize Old Main Post Office [Chicago Sun-Times]
·The Sad Saga of Chicago's Old Post Office Redevelopment [Curbed Chicago]