The Death of a Spire: It’s OK to Grieve. Again.

Chicago Spire

On you way home tonight, be sure to stop by the local Slurp ‘n’ Burp to pick up the breakfast spread of your choice.  Whether it’s butter, honey, Nutella, or that knockoff Nutella by Hershey’s, you’re going to need lots of it because the Chicago Spire is officially toast.

ChicagoSpire-005Born in 2007 as the Fordham Spire, the controversial 400 North Lake Shore Drive baby was expected to grow up strong and tall to 2,000 linear feet and 150 human stories.  Alas, this project failed early and its name changed from Fordham to Chicago as its ownership changed from Chicago to Ireland.

Now, the most recent owner, Garrett Kelleher, has officially relinquished control of the architecturally engaging hole in the ground to friends-of-the-blog Related Midwest, to whom he owed a metric assload of money.

On the official passing of the property, Related president Curt Bailey sent us the statement below pledging to build something in the space, but most certainly not a 150-story twisting instant-icon-just-add-water.

We are pleased to have resolution on 400 N. Lake Shore Drive, the site of the former Chicago Spire project. We recognize the importance of this site to the City of Chicago and look forward to creating an architecturally significant and thoughtful development befitting this premier location. We are proud to have a long track-record of developing landmark buildings with world-class architects like 840 N. Lake Shore Drive, 500 N. Lake Shore Drive, Park Tower, 340 on the Park and most recently, 111 W. Wacker Drive. We look forward to continuing that legacy on this marquee site.

Site of the Chicago SpireWe knew the Spire back when it went by “Fordham,” worked the third shift at White Hen Pantry and we’d meet for slingers at the Diner Grill on Irving Park after Bears games.  That was before it got involved with the Celtic Tiger went all Eurotrash and changed its name to “Chicago Spire” because “Frankie from the Hood” wasn’t good enough anymore.

Now that Frankie’s dead, what will take his place?  At this point, it’s anyone’s guess.  The area is zoned for some pretty high-density living, and we’ve heard speculation that at least two smaller towers will rise on that land.  The property is far too valuable to build anything small, and far too visible to build anything lame.

All of the previous developers of 400 North Lake Shore Drive have been required to fix up DuSable Park as part of the city approval process.  Obviously, neither has.  So don’t be surprised if Related, or whomever comes along to finally build something at the location, isn’t required to complete DuSable before starting on their skyscrapers, just like Hines/Ivanhoe are doing at River Point and 150 North Riverside is doing at 150 North Riverside.



Author: Editor

Editor founded the Chicago Architecture Blog in 2003, after a long career in journalism. He can be reached at

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  1. 111 W Wacker and 500 N Lake Shore are not even close to being “world class architecture”. Curt Bailey ought to be ashamed of himself for that comment. 500 N Lake Shore is a generic, glass box on a podium and 111 W Wacker has terrible waves in its glass. Related, please sell the land to a developer who actually knows what ‘world class architecture’ is.

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    • Agreed Mike. “The property is far too valuable to build anything small, and far too visible to build anything lame.” And yet based upon Bailey’s quote, I’d bet my life savings that we’ll see the latter.

      [This comment edited by Editor. This isn’t the Tribune. We expect our readers to post comments that are civil and intelligent. Dissent is welcome, but not vulgarity and hostility.]

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    • Editor

      Mike, there’s a lot more to “architecture” than a building’s skin. Remember that Related took over a previous developer’s failed plan, so there was only so much that could be done at that point. We, too, have been critical of the building for being a boring glass box on the outside, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t “world class.” It’s really quite well done on the inside.

      I base my judgement of a “world class” apartment building on my experience living in apartment towers in 17 cities around the world, and in my experience 500LSD is, indeed, world class. If you have another legitimate measure, I’m willing to hear what it is.

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  2. I really like your blog and I read it often. I just can’t believe Related Midwest is “friends of the blog”. This company has done nothing but mediocre projects in the past few years in Chicago. They do care about their Hudson Yards in NYC (parent company), but when it comes to Chicago, they only care about profit. Related Midwest started the statement right AND THEN went on to say their new buildings are World Class. COME ON!

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    • Editor

      Regarding “world class.” see my comment to Mike above.

      As for “Friends of the Blog,” you’re probably on to something there. I haven’t really explained that thoroughly to the public.

      “Friends of the Blog” is a status given to a person or company that goes out of its way to engage this blog. Usually it’s the result of an architect or developer sitting down with us for an interview.

      That sounds like a pretty low bar, but in the decade plus that I’ve been publishing this blog, I’ve found the majority of architects are like other brainy people: tremendously shy. The majority don’t have much of a concept of the world outside theirs and related professions. Getting them to speak on the record is often a Herculean task. Most large architecture companies don’t even have a public relations firm, or a person to handle social media. In business, these are basic tools, but they’re not something that architects and architecture firms routinely put any value in.

      That’s how Related became “Friends of the Blog.” Mr. Bailey, and a Related architect took several hours out of their day to show us the intricacies of 500 LSD, and talk about the building that has since become OneEleven.

      We all have friends who let us down on occasion. That doesn’t make them not our friends. It just means we have front row seats for their next success.

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  3. Amen brother, my thoughts exactly. If that’s what Related considers world-class, that site is a lost cause.

    [This comment edited by Editor for civility. If you can’t participate in adult-level discussions, feel free to surf elsewhere.]

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