Intelligence Report: Return to Shangri-La

October 31, 2012 (CHICAGO)

It would appear to be a return to Shangri-La Thursday night for the building's new owners. Originally there was to be a Shangri-La Hotel on the site, and even though new plans call for retail and apartments, 28 floors of steel girders have been exposed to five Chicago winters.

As the ITeam reported in 2010, some experts were concerned about the integrity of the superstructure and that it might have to be turn down. With Thursday's re-groundbreaking, the project goes forward.

"This was a tough puzzle to put together with a lot of challenges, but I think the team that's going to be guiding this project is exceptional and I think it's going to give us a great final product," said 42nd Ward Alderman Brendan Reilly.

On the 28th floor, where the building stopped in 2008, city officials and executives of the new owner, Related Midwest, heralded the return to construction and the 900 jobs it will bring. The finished product, set for 2013, will feature gleaming reflective glass atop a framework that caused some experts concern a few years ago.

"Concrete can withstand the elements extremely well, that's why it's one of our most popular building materials," Cindy Menches of Illinois Institute of Technology said in January 2010. "Mostly the rebar will be the issue, that's the reinforcing steel bars, they may need to be replaced or reinforced further because they've been sitting in the elements."

At the time, some downtown developers forecast that the dormant shell would eventually have to be torn down.

But the I-Team has been told by Chicago building department officials that in September, city inspectors examined the entire superstructure of the original exposed building; determined it to be sound, secure and safe and signed off on construction resuming.

"Just as it has been a symbol of market decline over these past few years, 111 W. Wacker will now be a symbol of a market coming back," said Chicago Department of Housing's Andrew Mooney.

"What we're here to do today is to celebrate this turning as a sign of the downturn to a sign of recovery in the Chicago market," said Related Midwest's Curt Bailey.

The building on the southwest corner of Wacker and Clark overlooks the Chicago River. The new plan calls for a 60-story building, which means more than half of it will be totally new construction, just those first 28 floors will have the original steel superstructure that city inspectors have looked at and given passing grades.

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