Developer unveils Chicago Spire

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 10 October, 2007, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 10 October, 2007, 12:00am

Plans for the world's tallest residential tower in Chicago will go ahead even though United States property prices are falling at their fastest rate for 37 years.

Dubbed an 'oversized drill bit' by Chicagoans because of its distinctive twisting, tapering form, the 2,000-foot high Chicago Spire is scheduled for completion in 2011.

Marketing of the tower's 1,193 apartments was planned to start from a 20,000 square foot sales suite by the end of last month. However, this has been postponed to January 13 next year, because of a delay in receiving final permission from city authorities while complex details were being ironed out, the project's developer, Shelbourne Development, said.

'I have been told in the last couple of days that permission will be given but we still have to wait for it to become public,' Garrett Kelleher, the chief executive of Shelbourne Development, said.

Prices for apartments range from US$750,000 for one-bed studios to US$40 million for a four-bed duplex penthouse at the top of the 150-storey tower. Apartment sizes range from 534 sq ft to 10,293 sq ft.

No two apartments will be the same shape because of the tower's irregular form. Celebrated Spanish architect Santiago Calatrava has designed all aspects of the building - from its overall form to the door handles.

The unveiling comes at a time when the US property market is suffering from the collapse of the subprime mortgage sector.

According to the US commerce department, the median price of a new home dropped to US$225,700 in August, a 7.5 per cent fall from a year earlier - the steepest rate of decline since 1970.

In the same month, the annual rate of new homes sales plummeted 8.3 per cent to 795,000 - a seven-year low. Mr Kelleher believes his project would not be affected by the downturn because it is targeted at the top end of the property market which he said was insulated from the fallout in the subprime sector.

He admitted he had not raised any money for the US$1.5 billion project, having funded the early stages of development himself. He said he was confident of raising the funding needed to finish the scheme despite the credit crunch affecting the banking sector. 'Already I've put significant nine-figure sums into it so far,' he said.

'There have been lots of enquiries from people interested in the project. I am sure we can get financing from non-traditional sources of funding.'

He would not say who or what these non-traditional sources of funding were. The project's sales agents, Savills, is marketing the project globally. The firm expects to sell two-thirds of units to Chicago residents and one-third to other Americans and overseas buyers.

Investors are not being offered rental guarantees.

The 0.8-hectare Chicago Spire site lies at the mouth of the Chicago River where it meets Lake Michigan, a prime waterfront location. It will be built on half of this land while the rest will be turned into public gardens.

It is one of a number of new projects in the city. About a kilometre upstream from the Chicago Spire site, Donald Trump is building a mixed-use skyscraper - Trump Tower Chicago - which will be completed in 2009.

Chicago is famous for its skyscrapers but not all plans come to fruition. A scheme to build another 2,000 foot high building in the city, 7 South Dearborn, was abandoned several years ago because of lack of financing.

A number of US developers are postponing sales launches because of the downturn in the residential property market.