Developer touts Chicago Spire as global icon

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 23 April, 2008, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 23 April, 2008, 12:00am

Sitting in a function room in the Marriott Hotel in Shanghai - which will soon be transformed into an exhibition hall to market space in the world's tallest residential tower - Ivan Bowen Murphy is confident that the 609-metre Chicago landmark building will become a global icon.

Mr Murphy, the president of Dublin-based Shelbourne Development, said the Chicago Spire would rise on a prime location in Illinois state's Windy City.

'Just as it is in Hong Kong, prime land is very expensive in Chicago and developing a property is a matter of how much density you have on your site. This is why you have very tall buildings at the centre of Shanghai and that makes absolute commercial sense,' he said.

Dubbed an 'oversized drill bit' by Chicagoans because of its distinctive twisting, tapering form, the US$1.5 billion project, whose construction began in June last year, is scheduled for completion in 2011.

Marketing of the 150-storey tower's 1,194 units that range in size from 534 square feet to 10,293 sqft started in January at prices ranging from US$750,000 for a one-bed studio flat to US$40 million for a four-bedroom duplex penthouse at the top of the tower.

The Chicago Spire will be taller than its neighbour, the Sears Tower - the current US title holder - by 157 metres, as well as Asian giants such as the Taipei 101.

Sales agent Savills is marketing the project globally. It expects to sell more than 60 per cent of the units to Chicago residents and the remainder to other Americans and overseas buyers.

The global marketing campaign began with Dublin, followed by an Asian roadshow that included Singapore and Kuala Lumpur and then Hong Kong early this month. It was in Shanghai over the weekend and in Beijing yesterday.

The exhibition will next head for South Africa, Moscow, the Middle East and some European cities.

The sales team has been silent on how many units have been sold.

Although launching the luxury project at the height of the subprime crisis in the United States and a global credit crunch, Mr Murphy denied that countering unfavourable market conditions was becoming the driving force for the marketing campaign.

'We have a sales centre in Chicago. The primary reason for global marketing is that we have a global icon, just like the Eiffel Tower. We always intended to market it globally,' he said.

Although market conditions for property were unfavourable, he added, these did not have much impact on luxury homes at prime sites, which remain in limited supply.

Investors should look to the future, Mr Murphy added. 'By [the time of the Spire's] completion, the US will have a new president, Chicago will probably gain the right to host the Olympics, and the dollar can't be worse than it is at the moment.'