Chicago development powerhouse Related Midwest has hired former SOM architect Michael Pfeffer to head the development of the failed Santiago Calatrava Spire site, as reported by Crain’s Chicago. As vice president of architecture, Pfeffer will also lead the development of an epic 62-acre vacant site along the Chicago River in the city’s South Loop.
Originally proposed in 2005, the Chicago Spire was set to be the tallest building in the western hemisphere. The 150-story, 2,000-foot-tall residential tower was to rise over Lake Shore Drive and the Chicago River, near Navy Pier. The initial design was unanimously approved by the Chicago Planning Commission and construction was started in June 2007. Early financial problems and the 2008 financial crisis proved insurmountable for the project, which stopped construction by the end of 2008. As the failed project’s largest creditor, Related Midwest was given ownership of the property in 2014.
The site has laid vacant since 2008, leaving a circular foundation hole as the only evidence of the once highly anticipated tower. For the 2010 Chicago Prize Competition entitled MIND THE GAP, hosted by the Chicago Architecture Club, architects were asked to imagine novel uses for the 76-foot deep hole. Since then other architects have speculatively engaged with the site with proposals ranging from more twisting towers to giant urban swimming pools. The announcement of Pfeffer’s new role at Related is the first concrete indication that something might be happening at the site soon. According to Crain’s, designs for the Spire site and the 62-acre South Loop site could be released in 2017.
The 62-acre site in the South Loop has also made headlines in recent years due to legal debates over money and ownership. The land’s former owner is currently serving a prison sentence for fraud unrelated to the land. The site defines the western edge of the booming, residential development-dominated South Loop. With easy access to the downtown by road, as well as by water taxi, the area around the site is quickly being developed.
Related Midwest is responsible for developing many of Chicago’s most visible recent projects, including the mixed-income Lathrop Homes redevelopment, the Robert A.M. Stern-designed One Bennett Park tower, and the 500 Lake Shore Drive tower.