Inspired by Possible Hire, Unions May Save Spire

Union pensions could fund skyscraper construction

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    Construction of the Chicago Spire may progress again thanks to a group of union pension funds.

    Many Chicagoans were disappointed when the city lost its Olympic bid earlier this year. But there may be a silver lining to look forward to. Or rather, a silver Spire.

    Construction of the Chicago Spire may progress again thanks to a group of union pension funds  — eager to provide work for union workers — are in talks to loan $170 million to Irish developer Shelbourne Development Group so construction of the twisting 2,000-foot-high Chicago Spire can resume as soon as early next year..

    Tom Villanova, president of the Chicago and Cook County Building and Construction Trades Council (CBTC), explained to the AP, "We were interested in funding part of the Olympic Village." But when the city lost, "[The Spire] jumped into first place as a project we focused on."

    The Spire, which would be North America's tallest building, broke ground in 2007 but has sat idle for the past year. As the economy fell apart, funding for the project dried up and construction ground to a standstill.

    Now, the CBTC (which represents 24 unions), an AFL-CIO pension fund, and a union life-insurance fund are working on a plan to lend $170 million to Spire developer Shelbourne Development Group.

    "It's about jobs for my members," Villanova said, reports the Wall Street Journal. Over the next 4 to 5 years, the project could provide 1,000 jobs for the unions he represents, some of which face a 30-percent unemployment rate.

    If all goes according to plan, the loan would pay off the $64 million owed to Anglo Irish Bank. The money would also go toward several liens, including one by architect Santiago Calatrava.

    It is uncertain when a settlement will be reached, but Villanova said he is "very optimistic and hopeful" of the outcome.

    Matt Bartosik is a Chicago native and a social media sovereign.