Chicago Architecture Info

The Chicago Spire



Formerly known as The Fordham Spire
Address 400 North Lake Shore Drive, Chicago, Illinois 60611
Neighborhood Streeterville
  • Never Built
  • Residential
  • Skyscraper
Original Developer Fordham Development
Final Developer Shelbourne Development Group
Architect Santiago Calatrava
Lead engineer Santiago Calatrava
Architect of record Perkins + Will
Structural engineer of record Thornton Tomasetti
  • Start: July 2007
  • Original completion date: 2011
  • Revised completion date: 2012
  • Stopped: 2008
  • 150 above ground
  • Seven below ground
Maximum height 2,000 feet
Maximum depth 80 feet
Residences 1,194
  • Building: 34
  • Parking garage: 98
Automobile parking 1,500 spaces
Foundation concrete 200,000 cubic yards
Foundation steel 70,000 tons


  • The building was designed to be made primarily out of concrete.
  • The twisting exterior was designed to deflect wind.
  • The building was designed with two emergency stairwells, in response to the 9/11 attacks in New York.
  • The foundation rests on 34 caissons drilled into the bedrock 110 feet underground. Twenty caissons were going to support the middle of the structure, while 14 are arranged in a ring to support the perimeter.
  • This plot of land was originally zoned for two towers: one 35 stories, and one 55 stories tall. Because of its height, the Spire’s density was less than the original zoning. It also appealed to bird rescue groups which believed the single, taller, tower would have less of an impact on bird migration than two wider towers.
  • This building was originally planned to have 250 hotel condominiums. This was reduced to 150 in order to reduce the impact on traffic in the area. The hotel was eventually removed from the plan in late 2006.
  • The spire was expected to have up to 1,193 residences.
  • The building’s penthouse was going to be two-stories tall and have 10,293 square feet of space.
  • The spire’s penthouse would have been the world’s highest residence.
  • Access to the tower was going to be directly from Lower Lake Shore Drive to reduce the impact on traffic in the neighborhood. An exit and entrance ramps were built from Lake Shore Drive before the project was cancelled.
  • As part of the development, riverwalks were going to be extended along the Chicago River and Ogden Slip.
  • The developer claimed that Within three months of its announcement, 800 people indicated they wanted to buy a condominium in the building.
  • A parking garage was going to be constructed to the building’s north and connected directly to Lake Shore Drive to reduce street level traffic congestion.
  • Plans for townhouses to line the base of this building were scrapped in favor of a circular plaza and five-story glass atrium.
  • The lobby atrium was going to have a ceiling 53 feet high.
  • There was never going to be a sky lobby. Instead, 14 passenger elevators would have connected directly from the main lobby to the residential floors.
  • This property formerly had the address 410-450 North Lake Shore Drive.
  • This property formerly had the address 420 East North Water Street.
  • The original cost estimate for this project was $2,400,000,000. However in May 2008 a representative of the developer said that figure is inaccurate. But she refused to provide a corrected number to the Chicago Tribune.
  • There was going to be structural transition floors every 30 to 40 stories to transfer stress to the core and help keep the building rigid.
  • In an unusual move, the parking garage was going to be built from the top down instead of from the bottom up in order to help speed construction of the tower.
  • If this was built, it would have been the world’s tallest all-residential building.
  • If it was built, this building would have had the world’s highest occupied floor. Even higher than the highest occupied floor in Dubai’s Burj Dubai, which would have retained the overall title of world’s tallest building.


January 2006 In revised documents filed with the City of Chicago, the roof height of this building was raised from 1,458 feet to 1,550 feet, and 1,600 feet to the top of the water tank.
March 16, 2006 The Chicago Plan Commission approved the construction of this building.
May 22, 2006 The Chicago Sun-Times reported that buyers put $20,000 deposits down on 92 of the building’s 300 condominiums in just two weeks of promotion.
July 20, 2006 Following reports that the building’s developer was having trouble securing financing, the property was sold to Garrett Kelleher, chairman of Shelbourne Development, for $64,000,000. Kelleher immediately doubled the building’s cost estimate, and proposed groundbreaking in the spring of 2007. Kelleher’s interest in Chicago goes back to his youth. He lived in the city for ten years after college.
November 15, 2006 It was announced that Shelbourne Development Group was taking over the project, and the building’s name was changed to The Chicago Spire.
March 15, 2007 A new version of the Spire plan was presented to people who live in the neighborhood. It included the development of an abandoned plot of land east of Lake Shore Drive into a manicured public space, and a potential bicycle and pedestrian bridge spanning the Chicago River east of Lake Shore Drive. The developers stated that they hoped to have the project completed 40 months after construction was to begin.
April 19, 2007 The Chicago Plan Commission recommended that the city’s zoning committee approve construction of this building.
April 26, 2007 The city zoning committee approved the plans for this building.
May 9, 2007 The Chicago city council approved the construction of this building. As part of the deal, the developer was required to kick in $9 million of the $12 million needed to construct DuSable Park, across Lake Shore Drive.
June 25, 2007 Crain’s Chicago Business reported that the contract for caisson work was awarded to Case Foundation Company. This put hope into backers of the project, and quieted some of the critics who didn’t believe the building would ever be built.
July 2007 Construction of his building began. There was no formal ribbon-cutting ceremony, just the arrival of crews and machinery on the site.
October 1, 2007 Portions of Lake Shore Drive were closed while exit and entrance ramps were built to connect the Chicago Spire to the highway.
November 7, 2007 Crain’s Chicago Business reported that because of the weight of the skyscraper, neighboring townhomes would sink about two inches by the time the Spire was completed. The developer calls the damage cosmetic, but homeowners planned to sue.
June 4, 2008 The Chicago Tribune reported that this building would be completed in 2012. The same day, the lead engineer on the construction site told WGN Television 2011.
September 19, 2008 The Chicago Sun-Times reported that construction work on the Spire is expected to slow down, but still continue, because of recent economic turmoil in the American and global credit markets.
September 20, 2008 A group of people who purchased homes in this building signed their names on the foundation support rings deep below ground.
September 25, 2008 WGN-TV reported that construction of this building is on hold. The television station cited a Chicago Tribune article. The Tribune article actually stated that sales efforts were on hold during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, and reiterated that construction has slowed, which was reported by the Sun-Times the week before.
September 30, 2008 WGN-TV reported that the 10,000 square foot, two-level penthouse on floors 141 and 142 was sold to Ty Warner, the man who invented Beanie Babies. No selling price was disclosed, but the asking price was $40 million.
October 8, 2008 According to Crain’s Chicago Business, architect of record Perkins + Will, filed a $4,850,000 lien against the developer for unpaid work.
October 17, 2008 Crain’s Chicago Business reported that architect Santiago Calatrava stopped working on this project and filed a lien in the amount of $11,340,000 against the developer for unpaid work.
August 14, 2009 Crain’s Chicago Business reported that Bank of America had filed suit against the developer of this project to recover nearly $5 million in loans.
December 9, 2009 The Sun-Times reported that financing was in place to allow construction to resume on this building. It never happened.
May 15, 2010 The Spire’s sales office in the NBC Tower closed after settling an eviction suit over unpaid rent.
November 2014 The spire developer cedes control of this property to Related Midwest.
October 2019 Developer Related Midwest proposed a two-tower project at this location designed by SOM. One tower would be 1,100 feet tall and the other 850 feet tall. Days later, 42nd Ward Alderman blocked the plan.