Broker Seeks Buyer for Chicago Spire Debt

by Natalie Terchek


The primary lender on the failed Chicago Spire development hired a broker to sell nearly $93 million of debt.

The primary lender on the failed Chicago Spire development hired a broker to sell nearly $93 million of debt on the high-profile site. The development, a deep hole along Lake Shore Drive and the Chicago River, has sat untouched for five years.

Crain’s Chicago Business recently reported that Ireland’s National Asset Management Agency hired Chicago-based Jones Lang LaSalle Inc. to seek buyers for the loan on the parcel, three years after now-defunct Anglo Irish Bank Corp. filed a $77 million foreclosure suit on the site, where Irish developer Garret Kelleher planned a 150-story condominium tower.

The Spire, a corkscrew-shaped high-rise designed by architect, Santiago Calatrava,  was supposed to be a 2,000-foot skyscraper – the tallest in the Western Hemisphere and about 500 feet higher than Willis Tower. It was planned to contain 1,200 units, including a $40 million penthouse. But Kelleher, who bought the parcel near Lake Michigan for $64 million in 2006, never got beyond digging a large hole before the real estate market soured and construction halted in 2008.

Future Plans for Spire Property?

However, now that the real estate market is slowly building itself up, there is talk about what future projects are likely to get funding on the land where the Spire was planned to be built. Jeff Benach, co-principal of Lexington Homes, believes the property will be used as a rental project.

“The location is not really a retail opportunity, but it is absolutely a residential location–and definitely more of a rental project than for sale,” Benach said. “A hotel would work as well.”

The buyer of the debt, likely a developer interested in putting condos, apartments or both on the 2.2 acre site, would need to settle the foreclosure case before beginning work on what could be a multitower project built in phases. The bunk note has grown to about $92.8 million, including taxes, penalties, interest and other fees, sources said.

“I always thought the biggest problem was going to be finding someone to pull the whole thing out,” Benach said. “This is an expensive project.”

Residential and hotel developers have been circling the site the past few years. but none could come up with a deal before NAMA hired Jones Lang.

Garry Benson, president and CEO of Garrison Partners Inc., told Crain’s Chicago Business that the Spire site is “a little bit like living at Disney World because of the proximity to Navy Pier,” and could ramp up interest from developers and investors.

“In the last 90 days, everybody who’s anybody, the light has gone on and everybody’s trying to tie up land for development,” Benson said.

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