Sick Supertalls

The Chicago Spire, 2,000 feet of twisting metal, has sold 30% of its units, developer Garrett Kelleher of the Shelbourne Development Group announced today. This is a significant announcement for two reasons: traditionally, lenders require 30% precompletion sales in order to fully fund a project; and the developer missed a property tax payment deadline earlier this year, prompting speculation that the Spire will never amount to anything but a hole in Streeterville.

Still, the Spire faces an uphill battle, so to speak. The market already has a condo unit for sale or near completion for every man, woman, child, and Labrador Retriever in the city. Another supertall building under construction in the city, Waterview Tower, will top out at the parking garage until lenders provide more money. As for the third new supertall under construction, Trump Tower–well, let’s just say that it’s no Sex and the City as far as unit sales are concerned.  The 30% precompletion sale figure is standard during a normal real estate market; this is not a normal market, leading some to speculate that lenders may want more sales before they start investing in the project. They may also want Kelleher to pony up more money. Thus far Kelleher has been vague about the finances of the project.

The Spire has one thing going for it, though: the crummy dollar. Half of the buyers are from overseas. Besides their enhanced buying power, I can see the attraction of Santiago Calatrava’s immense tower for foreign buyers: if they have trouble arranging visas to enter the US, they can still see the building from across the ocean.

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