Union boss steps in to save the floundering Calatrava project
North America's tallest tower was stopped dead in its foundations last year as the recession bells clanged and key players argued over alleged non-payment of millions of dollars in fees. But now the fate of Calatrava's Chicago Spire looks much brighter as union boss Tom Villanova, president of the Chicago and Cook County Building and Construction Trades Council (CBTC), has entered talks to loan $170million to the project's Irish developer, Shelbourne Development Group in a bid to create work for 1000 workers.
The Chicago Spire was set to become North America's tallest tower after commencing construction in 2007. Designed by world-renowned architect Santiago Calatrava the Spire was to reach 2,000 ft and open in 2011. Following the marketing launch it had sold 30% of all of the building's 1,200 apartments in the first three months. But the recession halted work on the project without ever leaving its foundations. The Fordham Company was the original developer and namesake for the project when it was in its previous, shorter incarnation as the Fordham Building. Following a relaxation of height restrictions in Chicago new designs were released increasing the building's height. The recession, however, took its toll on The Fordham Company which failed to produce sufficient funds and the project was subsequently taken over by Shelbourne who acquired the land. Just several months later, however, and Calatrava's office placed a security lien on the property having not received over $11million in fees and the project ground to a halt.
Advanced talks are now said to be underway and if Villanova's offer is accepted, the Chicago Spire will recommence construction as a full union project. A spokesperson for Shelbourne said: "The loan would mean 7.5 million man hours of union labor – which is important right now as there is high unemployment in the construction sector and this project would put people back to work."
Niki May Young