Will Chicagoans buy into Fordham Spire?

Would you pay $1,000 a square foot to live in Chicago’s tallest building? That’s the question on everyone’s lips today, after the Plan Commission on Thursday approved a change in the zoning law to permit the Fordham Company to build the dazzling, 2,000-foot Fordham Spire hotel condo high-rise. The tower would be the tallest building in Chicago, topping Sears Tower by about 500 feet.

The Fordham Company project still awaits final approval from City Hall, and of course, the company has to ensure the numbers will add up. The Sun-Times reported today that the company has a couple of possible funding sources, but noted that the starchitect behind the project, Santiago Calatrava, is known for blowing budgets out of the water.

The newspaper says that it understands that the primary backer for the project, at 420 E North Water St., would expect the developer to sell about half of the 300 condos and 150 of the hotel units before giving the go-ahead for construction. Today’s Chicago Tribune quotes the developer as saying many of the development’s condos would fetch $1,000 a square foot, and the hotel condos would be priced higher.

As recently as winter 2005, $500 a square foot was considered luxury pricing in the downtown condo market, although in recent months, that price tag has leapt to $600-$700 a square foot. Trump International Hotel and Tower has topped out at $750 a square foot, according to the Trib.

So far, the ultra-luxury high-rise market in Chicago isn’t showing signs of saturation and no doubt there would be a lot of cachet attached to living in the city’s tallest building, which is a remarkable, graceful piece of architecture.

As for the hotel units – the hotel condo market in Chicago is still very much in its infancy, and many Chicagoans are unfamiliar with the concept, where buyers purchase a condo, with the option of keeping it in the development’s pool of hotel units and turning a profit on its use as a hotel room.

It remains to be seen if the hotel condo market, which is apparently strong in Florida and New York, will translate to the Midwest, and whether buyers think Chicago is “worth” that kind of money.

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