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Council OK Won't Guarantee Chicago Spire

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Spire developer Garrett Kelleher hasn't specified how much the towering building will cost, although he says he'll fund 30 percent of the project with his own fortune…

The rest will be taken on by the Anglo-Irish Bank, who will likely look for other investors in the project.

To make it work hey'll also need to sell 1200 residential units at prices likely to be higher than anything else in Chicago.

So will buyers pay a premium to live in the Spire?

CUT (07) Well that's the million dollar question I guess. I don't know and I don't think anyone really knows until they actually try it.

That's realtor Mike Golden, who deals in luxury condos with his company @Properties.

He says it's a gamble but it could pay off for realtors, home owners and ultimately the city.

CUT (14) So if we're able to bring a totally different and new group of buyers into the marketplace they are going to create more demand. It will then create more supply but more likely it will help drive up pricing in some of the premium buildings in the city.

CUT OF PROCTOR (03) You know, we haven't pushed this market.

That's Tere Proctor. She heads the sales for the Trump International Hotel and Tower on Wabash Avenue by the Chicago River.

Proctor says the Chicago market can handle higher prices.

CUT (21) You know Chicago is a strong market that moves forward slow but sure. So yeah there's room to move there absolutely, especially when you have Trump Tower this type of a world class building. There's a lot of new construction its in a lot of different categories. If you have this building or even the Spire you are talking about new heights this city hasn't seen before.

Trump has one of the highest average prices in the city: about a thousand dollars a square foot.

Proctor says most of her customers are baby boomers from Chicagoland.

But Kelleher's going after a different crowd.

He's brought a British real estate firm on board to sell the Spire overseas.

Mike Golden says that new set of buyers could make for plush times. 

CUT (08) It's not so much going to be taking buyers from the existing marketplace, but it's going to bring a whole new type of buyer into our marketplace and it would only be good for the city.

Golden says if the Spire doesn't get built--if financing falls through--it's disappointing, but no big deal because the valuable Streeterville lot can still be developed into something else.

Any new developer would have to deal with Gail Spreen.

SPREEN (05) Well we have some high standards for any developer to try to live up to if this doesn't get done.

Spreen is head of the Streeterville Organization of Active Residents. Her group negotiated with Kelleher for months on the Spire plans.

CUT OF SPREEN (08) One of the worst case scenarios and we've had this happen a couple times in Streeterville is that the project gets started and doesn't get completed.

Spreen is optimistic though; she says she thinks the Spire will be built.

Chicago's Cultural Historian Tim Samuelson says the city has been here before: big buildings and murky financials, and it doesn't always end well.

CUT OF SAMUELSON ADLER SULLIVAN (33) “The great Louis Sullivan designed this great setback skyscraper called the Fraternity Temple for the Odd Fellows in 1891. It was really the pioneer of the modern setback skyscraper. Everybody couldn't believe they were going to build this building to the amazing height of 34 stories—the next tallest thing was 22 (stories). It was a form and a shape that nobody had ever seen before. It would have transformed the skyline.

So what happened?

SAMUELSON: (03) Financing didn't go through and all it is--is on the page of the history books.”

The Spire will likely make the history books one way or another, as either the tallest building in North America, or as a footnote fondly remembered by architectural historians.

For Chicago Public Radio, I'm Alex Helmick.

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