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CHICAGO-Construction is expected to begin in six weeks on a 2,000-ft residential tower now that the Chicago Planning Commission has given the project the green light. On Thursday, the commission approved the design for the Chicago Spire, 400 N. Lake Shore Dr. The city zoning commission is expected to approve the project at its April 26 meeting, and the Chicago City Council is expected to approve the design May 9.

“There is every indication it will be approved. There was no opposition [and] the planning commission approved it unanimously,” says Tom Murphy, of Thomas J. Murphy PC, general counselor and spokesman for the Dublin-based Shelbourne Development Group Inc., the Spire developer.

The 150-story building will have 1,200 units and penthouse residences as high as 2,000 feet, making the building the largest residential building in North America and Europe. “It will probably be the highest occupied floor in the world,” Murphy says.

Earlier plans called for 300 luxury condominium residences ranging from $600,000 to $5 million and a five-star, 20-story hotel. Additionally, 50,000 sf of retail and support space was planned for the floors overlooking the river and Lake Michigan and a communications antenna. A slight change has been made to the design with the removal of the antenna. With the antenna, the building slowly shrank in size as it tapered up, at a two-degree rotation per floor. Now with the condos on top, “the twist is uniform. It twists a little bit less at the top and it is a little bit more circular,” he says. Murphy said sales prices for the units are not decided upon yet. “We are going to launch the sale office here in the third quarter of this year and at that point we will have prices,” he says. Added to the plans are a four-story glass lobby and underground parking. The addition of the glass lobby was “to make a monumental statement about those home at the pedestrian level,” he says.

The tower will be constructed to meet the gold standard of LEED certification. “It is an extraordinarily high standard. Just being certified as a LEED building [without the gold standard] would be a great achievement for a skyscraper like this,” Murphy says. “But, the team and the developer are committed to sustainability, and so is the city, and that is the standard we are looking to achieve.” The building will recycle rainwater for landscaping, use river water for cooling and will also have special glass to protect migratory birds. The development will also have a one-acre landscaped public plaza and the developers will fund DuSable Park, a three-acre park directly east of the site.

The three-million-sf structure’s height will surpass the Sears Tower and Toronto’s CN Tower, making it the tallest freestanding building in North America and Europe. The tower will be situated at the mouth of the Chicago River, just east of Lakeshore Drive. Pedestrian access to Lake Michigan will be provided via a walkway under Lakeshore to a new DuSable Park, being redeveloped by Shelbourne.

Company officials had previously pegged the price tag of the building at $1.2 billion. Murphy said he could not disclose project costs but confirmed that approximately 30% of the cost will come from Shelbourne with about 70% financed by Anglo-Irish Bank. “The developer will have a very large amount of equity in the project. There will be no partner. The financing will be led by Anglo Irish Bank,” Murphy says.

Construction is expected to be completed in 2010. The renowned Santiago Calatrava, the designer of the original corkscrew-style Spire, is the lead architect and engineer for the 2,000-ft building. Perkins + Will will be the architect of record, with principal Ray Clark heading up the project. Local developer Christopher T. Carley, who introduced the building concept, was taken out of the deal when Kelleher bought the property for $65 million in July.

The rest of the team includes the Thornton-Tomasetti Group Inc. as the structural engineers, with company founder Richard Tomasetti leading his team; Buro Happold will act as project consultant, with international director and principal Padraic Kelly leading that group; Savills PLC will be the property consultants, sales and marketing, with principal Dominic Grace leading his team. Also on the project are Altus Helyar as cost consultants, with senior director Colin Kelleher; Cosentini Associates as the mechanical, electric and plumbing engineers, with Director Bruno Spiewak; STS Consultants LTD as the geotechnical engineer, with senior principal Clyde Baker; and Knight E/A Inc. as civil engineer, with chief executive officer James Wolfe.

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