Flamboyant New York real estate developer Donald Trump talked with the Tribune last week about the dreams and disappointments associated with his planned 90-story hotel and condominium tower in Chicago. He also discussed how the project's design would cost him more and dropped the news that he's likely to have his own condominium there. An edited transcript follows:
Q. How did the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, affect this project?
A. It had a huge impact. As you very well know, this project was originally designed at 150 stories. I decided we were going to unveil a 150-story building on Oct. 15 of that year. . . . After Sept. 11, one of the earliest phone calls I made was to the architects and my people. I said: "I no longer want a building that tall."
Q. You've had numerous world's tallest building plans go nowhere. Does it bother you to not be building a record-shattering skyscraper in Chicago?
A. Yes. I would have loved to have done it. It's just not a world where you want to do that anymore.
Q. Your first public plan for this project -- a 78-story, 1,073-foot tower unveiled in late 2001 -- was panned. Why did you change the design?
A. It was too bulky. I didn't like the look.
Q. The latest drawings of the tower don't have an antenna on the top, as previous versions did. Why?
A. There was a structure on the roof that was holding this antenna. I hated the look of it.
Q. Isn't it true that there was no market for a communications antenna?
A. I hated the architecture and then on top of it the market for antennas is not great.
Q. What have you learned about Chicago during this project and how it's different from Manhattan?
A. They are more design conscious in Chicago than they are in Manhattan. Even the city itself. . . . The mayor wanted a really great building. He told me: "The city will work with you in terms of getting this to happen, but in return we want a great building."
Q. Will you live in Trump Tower Chicago?
A. I'm going to have an apartment there, but I'll wait. I want to give the customer the first choice.
Q. So you'll ride the elevators and take complaints from owners?
A. I do that in other buildings.
Q. What was it like working with Adrian Smith of Skidmore, Owings & Merrill, the architect of your tower?
A. He's a strong guy. He holds his own. A lot of architects do whatever you tell them.
Q. What are the broader lessons of this project?
A. The primary lesson has been great site, great location, monumental building and beautiful architecture. I think we really hit it here. If I came up with a different architectural look, a look that wasn't as good as this is, I wouldn't have $500 million in sales.
Q. So good architecture is good business?
A. Good architecture is great business. A lot of people talk about "location, location, location." I disagree. It's just one element. Architecture is, in many cases, more important than location.
Q. But isn't good architecture costing you more in Chicago?
A. Yes. We have setbacks. It really was done because it worked with the site. If we went up straight, it was a much less expensive structure. Height costs a lot of money. And what's really costing a lot of money is the curtain wall [the tower's steel and glass skin].
Q. How much more money?
A. I think I could do a curtain wall for half price. [This is costing] almost double. When you see the end result, with the polished stainless steel, you're gonna say: "It's worth it."Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun