It would twist into the sky over Chicago's lakefront like an oversized birthday candle, surpassing Sears Tower and the planned Freedom Tower in New York as the nation's tallest building.
It might, or might not, be built. But it already is drawing fire from Donald Trump, who scaled back his plans for a record-shattering Chicago tower of comparable height after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.
Designed by superstar Spanish-born architect and engineer Santiago Calatrava, the skyscraper would rise next to Lake Shore Drive and near the entrance to Navy Pier. Its tapering glass facade would ripple like folds of drapery.
For Carley, the chairman of Fordham Co., the planned hotel and condo tower would be taller than the combined height of his last three previous projects: two towers of roughly 50 stories and an eight-story structure.
Financing for his latest project has not yet been arranged, and will largely depend on achieving prices rarely seen in a downtown market. "Is this going to get done?" Carley said. "It'll be market-driven."
But the ambitious proposal, to be called Fordham Spire, would dramatically shift the focus of Chicago's skyline, and it likely faces community opposition and the challenge of obtaining financing in what some are calling an overheated real estate market.
In addition, some contend, it must confront the specter of terrorism.
"In this climate," said Trump, whose tower might compete with the new skyscraper for luxury condominium buyers, "I would not want to build that building. Nor would I want to live in that building.
"Any bank that would put up money to build a building like that would be insane," he said.
Carley shot back that Trump's Chicago tower is playing in the same supertall league because it will be 1,360 feet tall, just 90 feet less than Sears.
"I wonder where the insanity limit is. It must be just over 1,360 feet," he said.
The verbal jousting suggests that Fordham Spire offers a test of whether the nation's post-Sept. 11 fear of heights is easing, nearly four years after hijacked jetliners crashed into the World Trade Center. Some experts say they see less fear on the skyline.
"I remember after 9/11 a lot of people announcing the end of the skyscraper," said Ron Klemencic, chairman of the Chicago-based Council on Tall Buildings and Urban Habitat, which monitors skyscraper construction worldwide. Now, he said, "the aversion to building tall . . . has diminished."
The Tribune revealed in May that Carley was working with Calatrava--the architect of the bird-like Milwaukee Art Museum addition, the Athens Olympics sports complex and the planned transportation center at Ground Zero--to design a tower on at least one of two sites along the west side of Lake Shore Drive and the north bank of the Chicago River.
Under Carley's plan, those sites would be combined into a single 2.2-acre parcel at 346 E. North Water St. The area is now an unruly patch, filled with overgrown grass, gravel, trees and a construction trailer.
From it would sprout a tower utterly different from the boxy forms found elsewhere on the Chicago skyline: A skyscraper with gently curving, concave outer walls attached to a massive reinforced concrete core.
Each floor would rotate a little more than 2 degrees from the one below. The floors would turn 270 degrees around the core as they rise, making the building appear to twist.
A spire above would soar to roughly 2,000 feet, making Fordham Spire taller than the 1,776-foot Freedom Tower, scheduled for completion in 2010, but not as tall as a tower now being built in the United Arab Emirates.
Tallest tower to twist rivals
Trump blasts iffy edifice that would put his in shadow
We've upgraded our reader commenting system. Learn more about the new features.
The Baltimore Sun encourages civil dialogue related to our stories; you must register and log-in to our site in order to participate. We reserve the right to remove any user and to delete comments that violate our Terms of Service. By commenting, you agree to these terms. Please flag inappropriate comments.