A Deep Freeze for the Chicago Skyline?

In last week’s New Yorker Nick Paumgarten speculated about a “New York that may be frozen in time,” stuck in “a long period in which little to nothing gets built.” In his static city, “The calls go out to the architects: pencils down.” 

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Something similar may be happening in Chicago. In October construction halted on the Chicago Spire, with only attorneys doing any significant work right now. Spire architect Santiago Calatrava filed a $11.3 million lien on the building, developed by Shelbourne Development Group Inc. Local architects Perkins+Will filed a lien for $4.85 million. The city of Chicago, meanwhile, is stuck with a giant hole on the lakefront, as this image from Blair Kamin’s blog attests.

[Side note: I’ve been remodeling our bathrooms lately and the hole looks exactly like the flange when a toilet has been removed. I’m wondering if they shouldn’t stick some rags in the hole to prevent the sewer gas from escaping.]

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Architects are also putting their pencils down on the 444 W. Lake St project at Wolf Point, where the Chicago River splits into its North and South branches, and the city was founded in the 1830s. Lenders have demanded that the developer, Hines Interests, raise another $30 million in equity to keep the project alive. Chances are Hines will raise the money somehow because one tenant for the 52-story tower is the giant Chicago-based law firm Baker & McKenzie, which will finally leave its offices at One Prudential Plaza. Getting sued for not delivering the building is the least of Hines’ worries; they should be worried about the historical symbolism if Baker remains stranded where they are now. When it was completed in 1955, the Prudential Building, as it was known then, was the first major construction project in downtown Chicago since the Field Building was completed in 1934—a construction freeze of 21 years.

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