Aspiring Height

Aspiring Height

Courtesy Shelbourne

It has been said that Chicagoans make no little plans, so those who still hold out hope for Santiago Calatrava’s lakefront supertall here may be honoring a local pastime of looking ahead. Another angle would focus on the stack of court filings and debt notices piled as deep as the unfilled cofferdam at 400 North Lake Shore Drive.

If built, the 2,000-foot-tall tower would be the tallest in the Western Hemisphere.

In February, the project, stalled since 2008 and in foreclosure since 2010, rumbled back into the news when lawyers for developer Garrett Kelleher said a $135 million investment from Atlas Apartment Holdings would allow him to settle bankruptcy claims. According to the proposed plan, Kelleher’s firm, Shelbourne North Water Street, would lay out a path to bring the project fully out of bankruptcy, potentially transferring the property to Atlas. They would need to put that plan forward by August 31.

In 2006, Shelbourne borrowed $54.5 million from now-liquidated Anglo Irish Bank Corp. to purchase the Chicago property. Two years later Shelbourne increased the amount to $69.5 million. The developer defaulted on that loan in 2009. RMW Acquisition Co. owned the project’s delinquent debt until developers Related bought it last summer.

Courtesy Chicago Architecture Foundation

Related affiliates filed a lawsuit against Kelleher in November, seeking $95 million in guarantees he made on the project. The total project cost was estimated at $1.5 billion. Kelleher put $188 million of his own money into the project, according to his attorney, Thomas Murphy.

If Shelbourne fails to win court approval for the bankruptcy exit plan by that date, or if they do not implement it by October 31, they have to reimburse Atlas to the tune of $4.8 million in breakup and expense fees. That has Related worried, since it could leave the Spire project’s receiver unable to pay its property tax installment.

Despite its sputtering development, the Spire still has vocal boosters. “We have been working with Garrett Kelleher over the past several months and now share his belief and vision in the Chicago Spire,” said Steven Ivankovich, CEO of Northbrook-based Atlas.

Kelleher seemed optimistic as ever about the project’s sky-high ambitions. “Given the ongoing recovery in the Chicago property market, the timing is better now than when this project commenced,” he said in a statement. “I am delighted to have found a partner who believes in the project as passionately as I do.”