No Deal Reached on Spire, Talks to Continue

Union leaders meet with building's developer

By Nicola Orichuia
|  Tuesday, Dec 1, 2009  |  Updated 1:07 PM CDT
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The Spire was supposed to soar above the skyline, but right now it's just a hole in the ground.

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Chicago Spire developer Garrett Kelleher and AFL-CIO representatives didn't reach an agreement to continue funding the Chicago Spire during a meeting Monday, but union leaders say the talks will continue.

At issue is a potential $170 million land loan that would retire Shelbourne Development Group Inc.'s loan from Anglo Irish Bank, pay off liens and restart work on the dormany project. 

"An agreement hasn't yet been made, but talks will continue," said Tom Villanova, president of the Chicago and Cook County Building and Construction Trades Council.

"There is no time frame set," Villanova added, explaining that leaders of AFL-CIO will need to determine if they can make such an investment.

The meeting was crucial in determining the future of what should become the tallest building in Chicago and the world.

The 150-story condominium tower has remained a large hole in the ground for over a year ever since financial woes stopped construction work -- which led to numerous legal issues, too.

Last summer, Bank of America filed a lawsuit seeking $4.9 million from Kelleher for allegedly defaulting on a loan. In 2008, Spanish architect Santiago Calatrava placed an $11.3 million lien on the construction site, saying the developer had not yet paid him for his work.

A counter suit was filed against Bank of America earlier this month by Shelbourne Development, the Irish property group headed by Kelleher. In the lawsuit, Bank of America is accused of attempting to make unreasonable profits by incorrectly calculating interest rates applied to loans and credit facilities.

The turning point came last month, when Chicago lost its bid for the 2016 Olympics.

“When I was sitting in Copenhagen and things went south, this moved to the No. 1 slot,” Villanova told the Chicago Tribune on Sunday. “We’re way past the look-see stage. We’re in the commitment stage now.”

Kelleher and Spire representatives have been visiting local union halls over the past few weeks in an attempt to convince union leaders to invest in the building, the Tribune reported.

In all, the AFL-CIO has three investment funds. One of these funds, the Building Investment Trust is already involved in local projects such as The Tides and The Shoreham residential complexes at Chicago’s Lakeshore East.

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