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Embattled Chicago Spire developer hangs on, barely

Over the past few days, reports have surfaced about Shelbourne Development Company and the tide of troubles that have beset the Irish company as the result of its unrealized quest to build the world’s tallest residential tower, the Chicago Spire designed by Spanish architect Santiago Caltrava.

On Monday, the Chicago Tribune reported that Shelbourne closed it posh sales office in the NBC tower to move to a much less grand space nearby. But the closure did not happen quietly. Rather, Shelbourne was forced to move, by notice of the courts, for unpaid rent in the amount of $55,082. But the back rent is but a drop in the bucket of what appears to be much deeper financial woes. Shelbourne’s head, Garret Kelleher, remains embroiled in litigation with Bank of America, which has charged the developer with defaulting on a $4.9 million loan for the Spire And earlier this year, Shelbourne’s subsidiary, Ireland-based Clarinabbey Ltd., recorded a $197.2 million loss for the year ending March 2009, much of it tied to the Spire.

With the financial walls crumbling around it, Shelbourne is losing key staff. Joe Harmening, the Spire’s director of development, hired in 2007, left the firm earlier this year and has not been replaced. And, in the oddest bit of news, reported today by the Irish Independent, Shelbourne’s finance director, Emmet O’Reilly, has left the company to head an internet start-up, Weedle, which links people’s skills to available jobs.

Perhaps O’Reilly can find work for Kelleher, as, from the looks of things, he might be job-hunting soon.

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