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Failed ‘Spire’s hole in ground could gain value in time

Architect Santiago Calatravshows off model NBC Tower his Chicago Spire building be built September 26 2007. | Rich Hein~Sun-Times

Architect Santiago Calatrava shows off a model, at NBC Tower, of his Chicago Spire building to be built, September 26, 2007. | Rich Hein~Sun-Times

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Updated: February 17, 2013 6:37AM



Time waits for no man, but it might cut a break for somebody who will hold property patiently — even if the property in question poses a difficult case.

Consider, for example, the former Calatrava “spire” site at 400 N. Lake Shore Drive. It’s where celebrated architect Santiago Calatrava, enabled by developer Garrett Kelleher, wanted to build 150 stories for the ultra-rich. His design was a swirling fantasia, and Kelleher marketed it with bluster that blew up in the financial collapse.

Kelleher made some headway in construction. The foundation basically is there, with concrete and steel caissons drilled 120 feet underground, according to Gary DeClark, an appraiser and managing director of Integra Realty Resources Inc.

DeClark examined the property for a client — he won’t say who — then posted his thoughts on a blog and elaborated with me. The site, stuck in foreclosure and related litigation, poses a tangle for anyone who wants to take control, he said.

The National Asset Management Agency of Ireland holds the mortgage. DeClark said it has little incentive to sell the property, as its value is liable to increase with a recovering market.

“The site will be held for a period of time, if for no other reason than resolving legal issues,” DeClark wrote. He guessed later it will take about five years.

“If the market continues strengthening and values rise, redevelopment might become easier as oversupply disappears,” he said.

How much is the site worth? Kelleher paid $64 million in 2006. The current assessment implies a value of $9.9 million. But gaining title and working around or with the big hole in the ground will cost a brave developer a fortune.

DeClark said that whatever gets built probably will be a modest, shorter building, probably housing. Calatrava’s touch will be gone, but the high prices he sought will remain the goal.

FOX HUNT: Fox Motors of Grand Rapids, Mich., is a large dealership network for autos and motorcycles. It represents 41 brands in 21 locations, all in the Wolverine State. Its 22nd will be its first venture in Chicago.

It will open a dual Ford and Lincoln dealership next month at 2401 S. Michigan in the old Joyce Ford location. The site is in the historic Motor Row district, giving it the welcome addition of a car dealership, but it’s only temporary.

Diane Maher, chief financial officer for Fox Motors, said her company is scouting for land on the city’s North Side, probably near the Elston and Fullerton intersection so it can have signage visible from the Kennedy Expy. She said the dealership hopes to build a custom three-story building somewhere in that coveted market by 2015.

In the meantime, the Motor Row operation will work out of 32,000 square feet and employ about 25 people.

It will be only the second Ford dealership within Chicago proper. A number of them have closed in recent years as the car companies have winnowed dealerships. The higher cost of city operations and the lack of land for sprawling lots also have been factors.

“We’ve always wanted to expand into a large city and we have a rule that if we can’t drive to it in three hours, we shouldn’t buy it, because we want to be hands-on owners,” Maher said.

Fox Motors President Daniel DeVos said his two grown daughters both have called Chicago home, one as a college student. He said those years deepened his own connection to the city.

NEW HOTEL: The Le Meridien hotel chain, part of Starwood Hotels & Resorts Worldwide Inc., plans to open in Oak Brook early in 2014. Owner RockBridge Capital LLC took over the 10-story building at 2100 Spring Road, next to the Oakbrook Center mall, last year and plans a $20 million renovation of the former Renaissance hotel.

With 172 rooms, it will be the only Le Meridien operation in the Chicago area.

CALENDAR NOTE: Chris Kennedy is the headliner at the 11th annual Commercial Real Estate Forecast Conference at the Sheraton hotel. Kennedy will discuss his Wolf Point project as part of a daylong schedule of events. The Illinois Real Estate Journal and the Real Estate Publishing Group are the sponsors. See rejournals.com/conferences for details.

DOING THE DEALS: Americaneagle.com, which designs websites, moved to 60,000 square feet at 2600 S. River Road, Des Plaines, a space twice the size of its former headquarters in Park Ridge. . . . Dedicated Logistics Inc. leased 125,000 square feet at 505 Crossroads Blvd., Bolingbrook. CBRE Inc. and Champion Realty Advisors LLC were the brokers.

David Roeder reports on real estate at 6:22 p.m. Thursdays on WBBM-AM (780) and WBBM-FM (105.9). The reports are repeated at 10:22 p.m. Thursday and 7:22 a.m. Sunday.



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