Over the past month a small berm has been created along the west side of the long dormant site at the end of North Water Street and as of this past weekend, has since been landscaped. The 2.2 acre property has been otherwise empty since 2008, when construction ceased on the Chicago Spire, an ambitious 150 story ultra-luxury condominium project where prices for studios began at $750,000. Despite the sale prices being among the highest per square foot rates ever listed for sale in Chicago, pre-sales were reportedly good for the 1194 unit tower which even had a two level penthouse occupying all of floors 141 and 142 with over 10,000 square feet under contract for $40 million to Ty Warner, the creator of Beanie Babies.
Despite the great pre-sales and the fact the entire foundation was completed, timing couldn’t have been worse. Like many ambitious projects, the Spire got underway at the end of a major building boom cycle which reshaped the Chicago skyline, and especially added significant height and density to the Streeterville and River North neighborhoods.
The project had been initiated in 2005 under the leadership of recently deceased Christopher Carley’s Fordham Company. The design at the time was for a 115 story condo and hotel tower topped with a spire, but it was then sold to Irish developer Garrett Kelleher’s Shelbourne Development Group who had the Santiago Calatrava designed project revised into exclusively condos in a building that would now reach 150 stories. The revised design also buried the originally planned multi-level parking podium into a basement of seven stories below ground, as Mr. Kelleher proclaimed at community meetings that creating such an iconic building atop a parking podium was "just plain rude".
Construction began in 2007 with the construction of a foundation wall around the perimeter of the site to prepare for deep excavation of almost the entire property while all of the tower’s caissons were drilled into the ground. The core of the building, approximately 75 feet wide, was then excavated to a depth of about 78 feet in a large circular hole centered on the north half of the property. To the east of the building site, a pair of new entrance and exit ramps were added to the lower level of the Lake Shore Drive viaduct which crosses over the Chicago River and Ogden Slip.
By the time foundation work was completed in 2008, the recession had fully set in and financing options quickly dried up. The project went on hold and was officially cancelled altogether in November of 2014 when the property title was handed over to Related Midwest pursuant to a court agreement in which Kelleher attempted to keep the project alive.
While plenty of rumors may have been circulating as to what is to become of the high-profile site where Lake Shore Drive meets the Chicago River, there have been no formal plans released by Related, who is certainly very active at the moment in the Chicago development scene with projects such as One Bennett Park a block to the north officially beginning construction just over a week ago and the recent announcement of a partnership in the 62 acre Riverside Park development site to the south of Roosevelt Road, among other projects.
Related earlier this year mentioned the intent to build the landscaped berm as a courtesy to the neighbors and the building of it may signal that the property may continue to be dormant for a while longer before new official plans are underway.
• Chicago Spire penthouse sold to Beanie Babies' Warner [Crains Chicago Business]
• Streeterville's One Bennett Park Officially Under Construction [Curbed Chicago]
• Related Midwest to Take Over Huge 62-Acre South Loop Site [Curbed Chicago]
• The Saga of the Chicago Spire Quickly Approaching Its End [Curbed Chicago]