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.
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Developers tap Perkins + Will principal to help redevelop site adjacent to Bertrand Goldberg’s River City
Plans for 2,700 new homes along the Chicago River have some neighbors and realtors calling a long-vacant lot near the Willis Tower by a new name. “River South” refers to a few sites, among them: a 7.3-acre riverside parcel between Harrison Street and the River City condo complex designed by Bertrand Goldberg. As Crain's Chicago Business reports, that's where developers CMK and Lend Lease are planning five towers with nearly 2,700 residential units, anchored by a 47-story building with 626 units. The developers tapped Perkins + Will principal Ralph Johnson to draft a master plan for the area. Whether or not the River South moniker sticks, the area has generated renewed interest from real estate watchers. Two other Chicago developers, D2 Realty and Phoenix Development Partners, have previously hinted at a large, mixed-use development on a 1.6 acre-parcel nearby. According to Crain's, developer Related Midwest is in talks to develop another 62-acre property at Roosevelt Road and the Chicago River.
Most developers did some serious belt-tightening during the recession, but news of a record-breaking real estate deal from late last year proves it sometimes pays to take a little risk. Related Midwest bought the concrete podium of an aborted development at Chicago's 111 West Wacker Drive in 2011, after plans for a Shangri-La hotel there went up in smoke. Chicago-based real estate investment firm Heitman reportedly paid roughly $333 million for the luxury rental building Related finished last summer, OneEleven. That’s about $661,000 per unit—a new high for a downtown apartment sale. This high-rise zombie lives, and it’s apparently very lucrative.
UPDATE [3:00 P.M.]: Related now has control of the Spire site, after embattled developer Garrett Kelleher transferred the deed Monday night. Related withdrew their claim in U.S. Bankruptcy Court following the transfer, reported the Chicago Tribune. They haven't released plans for development or sale of the notorious site, but President Curt Bailey issued this statement:
We are pleased to have resolution on 400 N. Lake Shore Drive, the site of the former Chicago Spire project. We recognize the importance of this site to the City of Chicago and look forward to creating an architecturally significant and thoughtful development befitting this premier location. We are proud to have a long track-record of developing landmark buildings with world-class architects like 840 N. Lake Shore Drive, 500 N. Lake Shore Drive, Park Tower, 340 on the Park and most recently, 111 W. Wacker Drive. We look forward to continuing that legacy on this marquee site.-- Halloween came and went last Friday, and with it so may have developer Garrett Kelleher's chance at reviving the Chicago Spire, an ambitious supertall project that faltered during the recession and left an empty cofferdam at 400 North Lake Shore Drive. Under the terms of an earlier settlement in bankruptcy court, Kelleher's company, Shelbourne North Water Street, was required to make a payment to Related Midwest by midnight Saturday. When it did not receive the payment, Related promptly filed papers with U.S. Bankruptcy Court in Chicago to wrest control of the prime real estate from Kelleher. Last year Related moved to buy the dormant project's mounting debt, but part of Related's development team later sued Kelleher for more than $95 million in guarantees for the project. Kelleher surprised many observers in February by offering bullish statements to the media and stirring rumors of a second chance for the Santiago Calatrava–designed skyscraper. Friday's missing payment undercuts those claims. As the Chicago Tribune's Mary Ellen Podmolik reported:
Related, arguing that Shelbourne breached an already approved settlement and the confirmed bankruptcy plan by not making a payment or handing over the deed, wants U.S. Bankruptcy Court Judge Janet Baer to order Shelbourne to relinquish the deed to the 2.2-acre site.It looks increasingly unlikely that the Spire will rise again. Under Related's control, however, the downtown location could see some sort of development—if not the audacious starchitecture for which it was intended. A court hearing on the motion is scheduled for the morning of November 4.
For years Chicago’s celebrated architectural boat tour has started its journey at 111 W. Wacker, a 28-story symbol of the great recession and stalled real estate development. Now they are one step closer to a launch more fit for neck-craning. Construction workers broke ground Thursday on the dormant project once again, reviving the high-rise once intended as the first Shangri-La Hotel in the United States. The 950,000-square-foot Waterview Tower will reach 60 stories when completed in the Spring of 2014, housing 504 luxury rental units and more than 400 parking spaces. There will be ground-floor retail and a restaurant. The tower stalled in 2008 and developers Related Midwest scooped it up in July 2011 through a distressed real estate fund. Related has been busy lately, announcing work on projects including 500 North Lake Shore Drive, the Lathrop Homes, and roughly half of the built and unsold condo units in the South Loop. Alderman Brendan Reilly and Commissioner Andrew Mooney of the Chicago Department of Housing and Economic Development joined Related President Curt Bailey for the groundbreaking. Construction will create 900 jobs, something union representative Tom Villanova said came as welcome news to construction workers who had been facing 25 percent unemployment.