It’s been said that you should always trust your gut. Well, we didn’t. And that’s why we’re bringing you this story on Thursday instead of last Friday.
Last Friday we wrote a story laying out the dots for readers to connect. It was a speculation piece about whether China’s now-fourth-richest man would start shopping around Chicago’s Vista Tower development. But we shelved the piece because we’re neither real estate experts, nor particularly good with money, and didn’t want it to seem like we were talking out of our asses.
It turns out we were right.
The Vista Tower is still under construction, but it’s also for sale, as we expected. The 95-story skyscraper that got Mayor Rahm Emanuel so excited can be yours… if the price is right.
How we ended up here is a story six months long. It started when the Chinese government remembered that it’s supposed to be a communist nation. Flooding the world with iPhones and plastic toys was great fun for a while, but Beijing has started getting introspective as its heads into the teen-age years of its economic liberation. So it ordered many of its billion-dollar companies to stop shoveling so much money overseas, and to cut down on debt.
One of the companies that got the order was the Wanda Group, the money behind Chicago’s Vista Tower. Over the summer, Wanda started selling off its entertainment properties at home. The money raised would, presumably, go to pay down domestic debt. But Wanda also ran up some debts overseas.
The company sold its London real estate project, but promised it would never sell its Australian buildings. Until this week. When it did. It also mentioned that it has a half-billion dollars in debt coming due next month. Nearly as much as I owe on my Harris Bank card.
Unlike me, Wanda still has an unbuilt skyscraper to sell, and that unbuilt skyscraper is on East Wacker Drive.
How much it will fetch is anyone’s guess. The development cost of the Vista Tower was estimated at a billion dollars. But every banker and his dog knows that Wanda has to sell, so that could mean someone gets a trophy tower at a bargain price.
Best case scenario is that a deep-pocketed American developer comes to the rescue. Think Related Midwest or Hines in the most awesome episode of House Hunters ever.
Worst case scenario… Water View Tower 2: Skyscraper Boogaloo.
We’ll keep an eye on it for you and let you know what happens.