AFL-CIO may help lift Chicago Spire

Marketplace Staff Nov 30, 2009
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AFL-CIO may help lift Chicago Spire

Marketplace Staff Nov 30, 2009
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Kai Ryssdal: Construction pretty much everywhere has slowed to a crawl since the recession started. That is true in housing, and it is true in commercial real estate as well.

Back in 2007, developers in Chicago broke ground on a soaring, twisting skyscraper designed by the renowned architect Santiago Calatrava. That project never really got off the ground though. So now organized labor is looking to use the tower as its own kind of stimulus project. From Chicago Public Radio, Adriene Hill reports.


ADRIENE HILL: The design plans for the Chicago Spire are stunning. At 2000 feet, it would be one the largest buildings in the world, but the actual work site is less impressive. It’s little more than a hole in the ground. There’s been no work on the site for over a year since the developer ran into money trouble. Now the AFL-CIO is looking to step in.

THOMAS VILLANOVA: We’re trying to get monies invested to get the project going, to get the spire project going.

That’s Thomas Villanova. He heads the local Building and Construction Trades Council. He says under the proposed deal, union members would do all the work on the Spire. He estimates seven-and-a-half million work hours, which makes it well worth the possible downsides.

VILLANOVA: We have up to 30 percent unemployment in some of our locals. We have people losing their benefits, their homes, their families, because they haven’t worked in such a long period of time.

Villanova wouldn’t get into specific dollar amounts, but the investment being discussed at a meeting today is reportedly around $170 million.

ROBERT BRUNO: It’s a hell of a lot of money.

Robert Bruno is a labor expert at the University of Illinois, Chicago. He says the AFL-CIO has used funds in the past to create economic opportunities for its members. But the size of this project makes it striking.

BRUNO: It is a terrific stimulus to job creation and to wealth creation.

That is, Bruno says, if the deal works out, and the building is actually completed.

In Chicago, I’m Adriene Hill for Marketplace.

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