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Uh Oh: Calatrava’s Chicago Spire Future Uncertain

October 23, 2008

Over the last weekend the Chicago Tribune broadcast the news  (first broken by Crain’s Chicago Business) that Santiago Calatrava, along with a Chicago architectural design firm, have filed liens against the Shelbourne Development Group totaling over $16 million dollars. And yet it was mere weeks ago that the Tribune was trumpeting the sale of the $40 million penthouse to beanie baby creator Ty Warner. Clearly, things aren’t going as planned.

While the PR coming from the developers is the usual boilerplate of “this is the normal course,” “these guys have been paid,” everyone knows something is amiss. The Tribune sums it up simply: “The liens suggest the project’s financing, as well as its feasibility, is shaky.” The most interesting bit of information was that Shelbourne has stopped having meetings with a neighborhood housing association because, according to the Tribune “the Spire’s construction has been halted.” And that’s not good. It seems to me that buildings are a lot like sharks, they have to keep moving or they will die.

For those of us still trying to stifle our yawns at the Trump Tower, the news about the Chicago Spire is something of a blow. The spire is interesting, creative, thought-provoking and a little provocative.  More than that, it is  not the usual post-modern glass box that is too prevalent here in Chicago and America in general.

Hopefully this project will get back under way, though in a jittery economy and a housing downturn, it might take some time to sell all of the $750,000 studio apartments.

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