Tuesday, October 12, 2010

The Spire Gets Spiked

What started with so much excitement has fizzled out like a sparkler, leaving behind nothing more than ashes and dust.

And a very large hole in the ground.

Garrett Kelleher's grand dreams of architectural glory have died with the economy and the proclaimed Chicago Spire designed by starchitect Santiago Calatrava will not rise up on the banks of the Chicago River.

The project was a long shot at best to begin with. Mr. Kelleher wasn't talking, but no one could figure out where he would get the funding for such a massive structure, a mixed use building that would be the world's tallest when completed.

Like so many Irish property developers, Mr. Kelleher turned to Anglo Irish Bank. At the moment, Anglo Irish is waiting on European Union approval for its restructuring plan. The bank is currently owned by the Irish taxpayers, and they have no interest in building anything besides their own economy these days.

The property that would have boasted of a two thousand foot spiral tower will end up in Anglo's hands. The bank has filed a foreclosure suit against Mr. Kelleher, seeking the return of the $77 million they loaned to him.

Sure he doesn't have that kind of cash around. So the Irish people gain possession of a piece of ground with a big hole in it where a foundation was supposed to go. The property market in Chicago is as bad as anywhere and no one will be buying the ground from Anglo Irish any time soon, and not for $77 million.

Anglo Irish may end up with the property, but the bank is so distressed that's it's likely to be wound down in the near future. All sorts of dodgy loans were made, in particular to the "Golden Circle" of ten prominent Irish businessmen who backed the loans with bank stock...which is now all but worthless.

Goodbye to Calatrava and the publicity the Spire would have brought to the city of Chicago.

Someday, something else will go up where the Spire once existed in the photoshopped world of the dreamer. It won't be the world's tallest building and it won't be as unique as Calatrava's original designs.

Sic transit gloria.

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