Chicago Spire Tried, Failed to Be Tallest Building In US

Would have surpassed Willis Tower and Freedom Tower if project had succeeded

Once upon a time, Chicago planned to be home to the tallest building in the United States. And no, it wasn't the Willis Tower.

That feat could have belonged to the Fordham Spire, Chicago's doomed architectural dream.

The imagined building at 400 N. Lake Shore Dr. would have soared 2,000 ft. into the Chicago skyline, making it the tallest building in the U.S and second tallest in the world. But thanks to a slew of financial troubles, it's just a very big, expensive hole in the ground.

The tower's struggles began in 2008 when architect Santiago Calatrava placed an $11.3 million lien on the construction site. He claimed the developer, Shelbourne Development Group, hadn't paid him for this work. Construction stopped after the foundation was dug and reinforced, and Shelbourne said work would resume when the economy rebounded.

However, that never happened, and trouble kept coming Shelbourne's way. Bank of America ended up suing the developer for defaulting on a loan in 2009, and they eventually lost control of the site in 2010.

The story doesn't stop there, either. Business Week reported that a New York-based real estate company purchased the site's debt for $40 million this past July despite opposition from Shelbourne chairman Garrett Kelleher. It's hard to say what that means for the site, but it's probably safe to assume that the Chicago Spire is a lost cause.

For now, Chicagoans will just have to settle for having America's second-tallest building.

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