From the archives: 1000 S. Michigan
07/28/2010 3:29 PM
Auctioneer Rick Levin reported today that the vacant parcel at 1000 S. Michigan was sold to an affiliate of First American Bank for $11.3 million yesterday -- a final price that represented less than half of the $25 million loan that Renaissant Development had for an unrealized condo project on the land.
Perhaps the land is snake bit. Or just unlucky.
One interesting note: yesterday's auction wasn't the first time the parcel has been to the auction block.
The Journal has been covering the ins and outs of this site for nearly a decade now. Here's a look back.
Vacant Michigan Ave. land? Nevermore
Developer announces plans for 700-unit condo complex
By BRETT McNEIL
In 1893, Frederick Jackson Turner proclaimed the American Frontier closed. Better than a century later--in fact just Monday morning--Chicago's Harmon Development Group let it be known there would nevermore be undeveloped land on Michigan Avenue north of Roosevelt Road. To wit: the development concern announced plans to construct three high-rise condominium buildings on a long-vacant parcel on the 1000 block of South Michigan.
While still almost embryonic--staffers at the city's Department of Planning and Development do not even have a complete set of schematics and proposals from Harmon--plans call for some 715 residential units, and 1,050 parking spaces, between the three buildings.
According to DPD spokesman Pete Scales, the first of the three towers would be built at 1000 S. Michigan, with the other two buildings following at a later date. Both of the subsequent buildings would face Wabash and would be located between 9th and 10th streets.
But Scales said the proposal is so fresh, and so many details remain unclear, that he was unwilling to speculate whether the building project had legs within city government.
Harmon has provided the DPD with an early, though according to Scales incomplete, application for a zoning amendment for the property. Currently zoned for commercial and business, the would-be developer is hoping to see the city assemble a planned unit development agreement for the property, a move that would allow for the construction of the condo buildings.
And while the city has been bullish in promoting residential development in the South Loop--just last week, a City Hall-endorsed residential development replacing the old Central District police station at 11th and State was unveiled--Scales said the scale of the Harmon proposal warranted scrutiny.
"I think we want to see more residential downtown," he said, "But that doesn't mean we won't take a long, hard look at this; it's a pretty dense project."
1000 S. Michigan proceeds apace through City Hall
Air rights to next-door Lightner Building in hand, high-rise developer will soon take his proposal to the community
By LYDIALYLE GIBSON
For a little more than a year, residents at 910 S. Michigan have anxiously monitored the journey of a certain high-rise proposal through the labyrinth of City Hall revision and re-revision, watching it move among developers, planners, and landmarks officials. A couple weeks ago, those residents got a little more anxious.
Drawn up and submitted by Harmon Development Group, the plans call for three residential towers, one fronting on Michigan--just south of the 910 S. Michigan building--and the others on Wabash. At 50 stories, the buildings would house 700 units, dwarfing 910 S. Michigan, which stands nearly 100 feet shorter.
"Yikes," is how Eve Noonan describes it. Along with her husband Ed, she's one of a handful of 910 S. Michigan residents who've formed a group called South Michigan Area Residents Together to lobby the city and the developer for lower heights, less bulk, and fewer units. Noonan said she and her neighbors have been hoping South Michigan's freshly stamped landmark district, which stretches from Randolph to 11th, might bolster their efforts. (The "SMART committee," as Noonan called it, did manage to persuade Harmon officials to allow a little air between 910 S. Michigan and its proposed next-door neighbor at 1000 S. Michigan. Specifically, 15 feet of air. Smack against the shorter building, the proposed high-rise would have blocked the windows of whole rooms.)
"The main thing is, it seems way too big for the neighborhood, and it would spoil the skyline," Noonan said.
City officials have seemed to agree, at least in part. In the last year, they've convened no community meetings to float the project to neighbors--a step that's usually taken after City Hall is pretty well satisfied--and according to Planning Department spokesman Pete Scales, staffers there are still reworking the plans with Harmon officials.
"The designs continue to evolve, although we don't want to say exactly how they're evolving just yet," Scales said.
But community meetings seem be on the horizon. Two weeks ago, Harmon officials bought the air rights to the Lightner Building, at 1006 S. Michigan, and although they're not planning to build anything atop it, the purchase does allow Harmon officials more height on their own high-rise.
"They can take the allowed space above the Lightner Building and translate it onto their building," Noonan said.
Sometime soon, according to Noonan, the SMART committee will sit down with development officials--there have been two or three such small gatherings--and she and Scales said a larger community meeting will follow shortly. As of yet, though, no date is set for that confab.
Harmon officials and attorneys could not be reached for comment.
Will the real developer please step forward?
Internecine drama, countersuits stymie high-rise plans for 1000 S. Michigan
By LYDIALYLE GIBSON
At the very moment when a 600-unit South Loop development seems poised for a crack at city approval--plans drawn and redrawn, neighbors consulted (if unappeased), color renderings rendered--its would-be developers find themselves wrestling each other in court for control of the company and the property. What that means for the proposed triumvirate of high-rises is certainly delay.
No one's saying much of anything right now, but in a complaint filed in February, Guy Gardner, calling himself the sole shareholder for Harmon Group--which owns 1000 S. Michigan and the two lots just west--accused onetime lawyer Ronald Delmenico of holding Harmon's "corporate documents" hostage after himself being let go. Two months later, Delmenico filed his own lawsuit, accusing Gardner of trying to swindle him out of a promised partnership in the company, the property, and the development. (He also insisted he'd handed over copies of every single document Gardner asked for.) Delmenico maintained he was not merely an attorney for Gardner, but a partner who laid four years' worth of groundwork for the proposed high-rises. To wit, he's submitted letter after official letter he signed as Harmon's president. Delmenico was cast off in January, according to his complaint, when Gardner came to believe Delmenico "had brought the development of the property to a point that Gardner could handle it without sharing the profits."
Delmenico traces his association with Gardner all the way back to 1979, when Delmenico served as attorney to the Gardner family business, Soft Sheen Hair Care Products. According to Delmenico, a 2001 agreement--never signed, due to Gardner's dawdling--gave him a 15 percent stake of the company that owns the South Loop parcel.
"With the full knowledge of Guy Gardner, I have held myself out and acted as the President of Harmon and entered into contracts with third parties as President and/or Principal of Harmon," Delmenico said in an affidavit.
Another alleged co-owner, with his own complaint against Gardner, is accountant Louis Williams. In court documents, Williams contended that his take was 12-and-a-half percent.
"Ron Delmenico acted as a managing member of 1000 S. Michigan for three years," Delmenico said in a statement Tuesday. He called Gardner's decision to pursue the dispute in court rather than in private discussion "unfortunate and unwise."
Gardner and his attorney, Saul Wexler, could not be reached for comment as this story went to press. But in court documents, they insisted the strife was borne out of Delmenico's anger at being fired. No partnership agreement was ever finalized or even concretely negotiated, they said.
"After years of this attorney-client relationship, Delmenico now is attempting to claim a proprietary interest in some of Gardner's business ventures," Gardner's complaint read. "If Delmenico performed his duties properly in organizing the Affiliated Companies and according to Gardner's instructions, Gardner is the President and only director and/or officer."
While the tangle of lawsuits is unlikely to derail the Department of Planning and Development' proceedings, it may well upset Harmon's. With its very ownership in doubt, the business of designing and financing a 50-story development has already become difficult, as Gardner's complaint attests: "Without the corporate records, Gardner is unable to determine what acts Delmenico took with regard to the Affiliated Companies. In addition, in contacting Gardner's vendors and bank, Delmenico is significantly impeding Gardner's ability to run his business."
Boul Mich battleground
Pitting preservation against progress and catching residents in the middle, a high-rise proposal for 1000 S. Michigan will put the Loop's newest historic district to the test
By LYDIALYLE GIBSON
Ever since city officials declared Michigan Avenue's postcard streetwall of terra-cotta towers and turreted skyscrapers a historic landmark two years ago, preservationists and property owners have been spoiling for a fight. Taking turns, they've each labeled the other as reckless, or selfish, or without imagination. Developers insist Boul Mich devotees can't see past 1930 when it comes to architecture; preservationists figure property owners can't see past the dollar signs.
Right now, those competing forces are duking it out on an asphalt parking lot at 1000 S. Michigan. Owner Guy Gardner proposes to plant a 425-foot glass-and-terra-cotta tower on that site. Preservationists hope to cajole him toward a design that looks more like the slender-necked Straus Building a few blocks north, or the Willoughby Tower, or the Montgomery Ward and Company Tower. All of them were built before 1929.
Meanwhile, residents living just north of the site, inside the old Karpen-Standard Oil Building at 910 S. Michigan, are hoping to prevent their south-facing courtyard from becoming an air shaft. Built too close to the property line, 1000 S. Michigan would darken the condos of its northerly neighbors who have courtyard views and windows facing south. And so for nigh two years now, 910 S. Michigan residents have pleaded with Gardner and his development team for a design that's both shorter and set back from their building, if only a little.
"We just want them to be good neighbors," said 910 S. Michigan resident John Taylor at a neighborhood meeting earlier this month. "That's what we're asking."
Gardner and his colleagues insist that's just what they're doing. Convening a neighborhood confab inside the 1st District station house last Thursday night, members of 1000 South Michigan Avenue, LLC and architects from DeStefano and Partners offered up a few reworked drawings as proof. At one time slated to soar to more than 600 feet tall, the high-rise now squeezes--barely--within city height recommendations for the South Michigan Boulevard Historic District. In response to traffic worries, development officials also slashed away one-third of the high-rise's parking spaces, leaving just enough for the building's 300 condos. A proposed three-story health club was shrunk by 120,000 square feet, to 70,000 square feet.
Meanwhile, at its closest point, the redesigned building would sit 12 feet from the windows of 910 S. Michigan residents, which stands 272 feet tall.
"We are actually cutting out some of the most valuable part of our building, which is the Michigan Avenue frontage," Ted Novak, an attorney for the project, told meeting-goers last week. "We are carving out a developable area that is the most valuable area."
But 910 S. Michigan residents remained unmoved, and unimpressed.
"Twelve feet between two townhouses--that's normal," said one woman . "But what about 12 feet between taller buildings? It'll be totally dark!"
Several residents suggested 1000 S. Michigan developers try designing a C-shaped building that would mimic its northerly neighbor. Architect Jim DeStephano declared that an impossibility.
"This is an infill building with two party walls," DeStefano said. "You're talking about a courtyard building that faces two suites. It just doesn't work."
Preservationists had come with their own set of questions for Gardner and his partners. Sharon Watson, a board member at Historic Printers' Row Neighbors, challenged the notion that the upper floors of 1000 S. Michigan, set back just six feet from its base, could truly constitute a proper tower, like the septuagenarian ones dotting the rest of the Boul Mich streetwall. On average, their towers recede some 20 or 30 feet from the base. Watson was also troubled by the fact that, as planned, 1000 S. Michigan would outstrip most of the rest of the streetwall by roughly 150 feet.
Besides that, Watson wondered about the strips terra cotta running the length of the building, and the windows that stretched between them. Would there be enough texture and ornamentation to give 1000 S. Michigan contours, a few corners for light and dark to play? And what about the building's proportions? Watson said they didn't seem right. Calculating that on most Michigan Avenue stalwarts, the towers rose only half as tall as their bases, Watson reckoned that 1000 S. Michigan's tower ought to be another 20 feet shorter.
"There were far fewer changes in this plan than I would have expected," Watson said in an interview Tuesday. "The major non-change is the building's profile. We're looking for a building that has the same type of profile as the other buildings on the street. On 1000 S. Michigan, they're more like turrets than a tower."
At last week's meeting, Landmarks Preservation Council of Illinois Development Director Jim Peters picked up on the same notion.
"This is not a tower," Peters said. "This is a skyscraper. ... The tower is not a tower; it's a big mass."
Not so, argued Novak. And besides, 1000 S. Michigan wasn't meant to merely imitate 70-year-old architecture.
"Being in a landmarked district doesn't mean you have to be identical, comparable to what's there," Novak said. "This is really a complement to Michigan Avenue. Tell me, you cannot deny that this is a beautiful building, can you?"
Steve Ward, real estate vice president for the Greater South Loop Association, finds himself inclined to agree.
"We think the building is great," Ward said. "The materials are really high-quality--that terra-cotta system is great--and I don't buy at all that the building will look like a modern building clashing with the historic district. Does the Reliance Building clash with the Fields Building, or the other buildings on the street? No, people love it. But when it was built, it clashed. People thought it was startling."
An architect himself, Ward scoffed at the notion that 1920s conventions ought to set the limits for developers working today.
"We have a responsibility to move design and architecture forward into the 21st century," Ward said. "The street today does have a large mix of styles. Besides, 1000 S. Michigan does pick up on the cornice lines and mimics the silhouette of other towers. And the architecture is conservative. It's not radical at all. Yes, the tower is primarily glass, especially the top portion, but the proportions and materials are sympathetic to the historic district. It's not going to be as modern as the Skybridge building."
Near South Planning Board Executive Director Bonnie Sanchez-Carlson, too, said she found little to protest in Gardner's plans. In fact, NSPB officials offered their approval of the project even before the latest round of revisions.
"A lot of our members like the contemporary sense of the building, and how it's above 280 feet, but that it kept the historical part of the building. There are aspects of the Michigan Avenue streetwall," Sanchez-Carlson said. "Overall, they lowered the building, which we were happy with."
Ward, meanwhile, said he'd have preferred a higher, sleeker building at 1000 S. Michigan. It would have made for a handsomer profile.
"As the building got shorter, it got bulkier, and it's going to block out more light from the street," Ward said. "A taller, thinner tower is more pleasing aesthetically. It encourages greater innovation and variation. ... Still, the jury's still out until the building get built, of course, but it looks like this could be one of DeStefano and Partners' better buildings."
Residents at 910 S. Michigan hope that's just a misguided hunch of Ward's and not one city officials share. As of yet, though, higher-ups at the Department of Planning and Development are keeping no counsel but their own. Notebooks and pencils at the ready, DPD Deputy Commissioner Terri Texley and Landmarks Commission head Brian Goken both sat in on last Thursday's meeting--as did staffers from 2nd Ward Alderman Madeline Haithcock's office--but all of them insisted they'd made no decision on the project. All of them, however, have made more than a few revision suggestions over the last year or so.
"We're still reviewing it," said DPD spokesman Pete Scales.
Hoping to cast a few doubts across city planning brows last Thursday night, protestors from 910 S. Michigan raised more than a few concerns about Gardner's plans, some of them new and some of them resurrected. Some grumbled about other embattled projects Gardner owned, particularly a row of townhouses at 14th and Wabash. And what about the other two buildings on Wabash, slated to become the second phases of 1000 S. Michigan? Developers said little about them Thursday, and they're designed to rise higher than the Michigan Avenue building, with 150 residents each. Would firetrucks and garbage crews still be able to reach 910 S. Michigan from the alley it would share with the Wabash towers?
Not least among the crowd's complaints was one about the meeting's time and place. Set for 6 p.m. at the corner of 18th and State, it was both too early and too far for many to get to, they said, and they accused 1000 S. Michigan developers of intentionally trying to thin the ranks of meeting-goers.
"This is not our community; this is more than a mile from our community," one woman said.
"Will you come back for another community meeting at Grace Place or 910 or somewhere closer?" said another.
(Development officials said they'd been sent to the 1st District station house by Near South Planning board staffers. Sanchez-Carlson, though, said she'd given Gardner and his partners a whole list of potential meeting sites, of which 18th and State was only one.)
Hoping to hitch horses with other objecting to 1000 S. Michigan on the grounds of preservation, 910 S. Michigan residents also wondered aloud about the proposed building's architecture. Graham Grady, an attorney for 910 S. Michigan, quoted from the city's drafted design guidelines for the historic district.
"Take a look at this rendering," Grady said, pointing to a four-color drawing of 1000 S. Michigan. "Does this look to you like anything on Michigan Avenue today? In reality, it does not have to copy the rest of the street, but it does have to be contextual. This looks like the Borg-Warner Building--a big glass box on top."
"The guidelines say to draw from existing examples within the district," Grady said. "The 910 building is an existing example within the district. It happens to be right next to 1000 S. Michigan. ... This isn't just, 'Gee, you should be a nice neighbor.' It's a rule."
Talking up tall buildings
GSLA leaders want high-rises, three-pronged tower at 1000 S. Michigan
By LYDIALYLE GIBSON
Gathering last Saturday morning inside the snow-swept 1st District station house at 18th and State, officials at the Greater South Loop Association and a dozen or so meeting-goers took up the topic of neighborhood development. Offering a little praise for a proposed high-rise bound for the site at 1000 S. Michigan and a few suggestions for revising the city's South Loop master plan, leaders of the neighborhood group said they were looking forward to the amenities of a mature neighborhood--more retail and better services.
"In a way, we want a high-rise neighborhood so we can get the amenities," said Steve Ward, GSLA's real estate vice president, answering one meeting-goer's worries over the rising number of tall buildings in the South Loop.
For too long, Ward said, the three-pronged tower proposed for 1000 S. Michigan and two Wabash lots to the west has been bogged down in City Hall. Amid neighborhood protest, city officials have demanded more than one change to the plans for 1000 S. Michigan, which would sit inside the Boul Mich historic district.
"We have generally supported that project," Ward said.
GSLA members have also generally supported the Department of Planning and Development's Near South Community Plan, released last November. It's a document that lays out two decades' worth of residential, commercial, transportation, greenspace, and pedestrian development in the two-mile area stretching from Congress to the Stevenson and from Lake Michigan to the South Branch.
Still, GSLA President Jeff Key said Saturday his group is wary of city plans to remove parking from Roosevelt Road and Clark Street.
"[The Chicago Department of Transportation] wants to make it a freeway," Key said, describing a CDOT plan to reconfigure Clark Street at Roosevelt as a two-tiered thoroughfare with three subterranean through lanes and ramps that rise up to the traffic light.
Parking on Clark would keep traffic slow, Key said.
"It would encourage people to use other streets as their main north-south arterials," he said.
GSLA members spent much of last weekend's confab hashing out a few details for quite another sort of neighborliness altogether. Come Aug. 8, according to Key, GSLA members hope to be throwing the Bash on Wabash, a street festival they mean to turn into an annual affair. Centered around Wabash and 14th, the party would include belly dancing, live bands, three-minute dating, and plenty of food. Last year, plans for this same celebration never quite came together, but this time around GSLA members are already booking bands and requesting permits. Lasting from 11 a.m. to 8 p.m., the Bash on Wabash may, according to Key, be preceded by the Dash to the Bash, an early morning 5K run through the neighborhood's loveliest sights. And it's likely the party will dissolve into a Crash After the Bash at local nightclubs, Ward said.
"We're going to have a rhyming committee come up with more," Ward said.
Bank forecloses on 1000 S. Michigan
No word on the fate of the South Loop high-rise project
By LYDIALYLE GIBSON
More than half a year after developer Guy Gardner's mortgage came due for the property at 1000 S. Michigan--where he'd planned to raise a triad of soaring residential towers--officials at CIB Bank have launched foreclosure proceedings.
According to a complaint filed back in February, bank officials allege that 1000 S. Michigan's $12.5 million loan was due July 1. Two other loans, altogether worth more than $4 million, are also past due, according to CIB. Gardner and his partners had taken out one of those loans to fund a handful of new town houses at an existing--and often embattled--development at 14th and Wabash.
As this paper went to press, neither Gardner nor his spokespeople could be reached for comment, and there was no word on what the foreclosure lawsuit might mean for the future of either South Loop project. On March 17, Gardner's attorney's filed for an extension on the deadline for responding to CIB's allegations.
"The complaint is voluminous and attaches lengthy contracts and multiple mortgages that purportedly implicate the rights and obligations of the defendants," reads the motion. "Defendants have been unable to complete their rights and analysis of the documents, and, therefore, seek an extension of thirty (30) days, up to and including April 9, 2004, to file their answer."
Whatever resolution Gardner and CIB work out, more than one South Looper hopes foreclosure will spell the end for the 1000 S. Michigan project. For years now, would-be next-door neighbors at 910 S. Michigan have been bracing for close quarters with Gardner's threesome of high-rises. The project's flagship tower, a 425-foot glass-and-terra-cotta behemoth, would darken the condos of its northerly neighbors who have courtyard views and windows facing south. At its closest point, Gardner's building would sit 12 feet from the windows of 910 S. Michigan, a 272-foot condo building. Both sites share space in the Boul Mich historic district, which stretches along the city's postcard streetwall from Randolph to 11th Street.
"We're thrilled, because it means this development won't happen as quickly, so perhaps it gives new developers and architects and community members time to work for a really terrific project for this historic and highly visible spot on Grant Park," said 910 S. Michigan resident Eve Noonan, who along with fellow neighbors has long haggled with Gardner and his attorneys and architects over the height, density, and architecture of the project. "For the same money, you could do something really incredible here. This is a hard site, even for a pro, to develop. When Gardner bought it, it wasn't landmarked."
Immediate neighbors of 1000 S. Michigan weren't the only ones to weigh in. Board members at Historic Printers' Row Neighbors offered a list of criticisms and misgivings, as did the Landmarks Preservation Council of Illinois. Meanwhile, the Greater South Loop Association and the Near South Planning Board had offered Gardner their approval.
Surprise compromise reached at 1000 S. Michigan
Primed for a fight, residents caught off guard by developer's last-minute pitch for 'breathing room'
By HAYDN BUSH
Ed Noonan couldn't believe it. The 910 S. Michigan resident, along with his neighbors and other community groups, had spent years wrangling with developer Guy Gardner over a planned trio of high-rises next door at 1000 S. Michigan. The high-rises, which would face out onto landmarked Michigan Avenue, originally were to have been built all the way to the property line, to the point where Noonan's windows would have been rendered inoperable by the close proximity of brick next door.
But during a subdued hearing in front of the Chicago Plan Commission last Thursday, Noonan and other neighbors were surprised to find that last-minute modifications will add 12 feet of breathing room between the two Boul Mich properties. The 1000 S. Michigan building will still scrape against its neighbor at ground level, however, as the setback will kick in 23 feet up.
While 910 S. Michigan residents' view to the south will vanish, a memorandum submitted by the developer states that "no improvements will be made immediately adjacent to windows of residential units in the 910 South Michigan Avenue Building causing such windows to not function in any capacity."
“It beats being bricked in,” Noonan said shortly after the plan was approved on Thursday.
Graham Grady, an attorney for the 910 S. Michigan building, said at the hearing that he had received the document ironing out the project changes seconds earlier. He took a moment to chastise Gardner for the late notice, before acknowledging that his clients no longer opposed the three building, 655-unit project.
"This is a massive failure of communication," Grady said, adding that "the concerns of neighbors have been satisfied."
Grady credited Jack Swenson, an official with the Department of Planning and Development, with landing the compromise deal. Swenson told the Plan Commission that Gardner “made a number of changes to the project” and said the building had the support of the Great South Loop Association and the Near South Planning Board.
Second Ward Alderman Madeleine Haithcock, who brokered talks between neighbors and Gardner for several years, was visibly excited during the hearing, and hugged Gardner afterwards.
"I'm happy for Guy and everybody right now," she told the Plan Commission shortly before they voted to approve the project.
While no longer in opposition to the architectural details of the development, several neighbors still have nagging concerns about Gardner’s ability to pull off the project, which includes three buildings all taller than 350 feet.
Sharon Block, another resident of the 910 S. Michigan building, alluded to Gardner's recent financial straits—which include foreclosure proceedings by CIB Bank over a loan furnished for the project--and wondered whether he would set up an escrow account to cover any damage to her building during construction.
"Absolutely--we're good neighbors," Gardner said Thursday during a brief statement to the Plan Commission, where he also said he would "comply with all regulations of the City of Chicago."
For Noonan, whose own views were nearly eliminated by the glass and steel tower next door, the agreement represents a partial victory. The three towers still wrap around his building in an L shape, and balcony views in back of the property will disappear. In addition, Noonan says he still has concerns about Gardner’s track record as a developer. A smaller Gardener townhome project in the South Loop was plagued last year with reports of shoddy construction and missed deadlines.
Nevertheless, Noonan said he was pleased that his windows will not be reduced to mere ornamentation.
“Alderman Haithcock kept on this guy for two and a half years," Noonan noted appreciatively.
Illusions of Gardner
Alderman Madeline Haithcock had faith in developer Guy Gardner, despite the protests of residents. But now he's in foreclosure at 1000 S. Michigan.
By THOMAS FRANCIS
"Luxury has a new address," declares the sidewalk placard advertising the 1000 S. Michigan condo development-to-be. But it takes a lot of imagination to see luxury here, in the crumbling, undulating parking lot that currently resides at that address. And it takes even more to conceive of luxury coming from Guy Gardner, the ersatz real estate mogul who has thus far proved only that he can create colossal debt and labyrinthine litigation.
Gardner, heir to the Chicago-born Soft Sheen hair care franchise, announced six years ago his intention to squeeze a 700-foot-tall, three-tower condominium development between two buildings a fraction of that size. Concerns from neighbors and city planners have since reduced the proposed height to 425 feet, but it was still a bold endeavor for someone of Gardner's limited experience.
"At one time it was a very attractive, very valuable project," says Attorney Saul Wexler. "The timing was right--the Loop was just starting to undergo a lot of condominium development."
Gardner had a hotshot attorney in Langdon Neal, who could finesse politicians and deflect angry neighbors. He had an architecture firm in DeStefano and Partners that was capable of handling a project on this grand a scale. He had the requisite deep pockets. And he had a trusted business partner in Ron Delmenico, who for more than 20 years had served the Gardner family as an attorney on both business and personal matters.
Wexler, who is Delmenico's attorney, says his client was both the brains and the hustle behind the 1000 S. Michigan project, tending to everything from the zoning to the interior design. In return, Delmenico was promised the presidency of Harmon Group, Gardner's development company--as well as an ownership interest in 1000 S. Michigan, says Wexler. This apparently gave Delmenico the confidence to forsake his law practice and devote himself to the task full time.
But as Gardner continued to resist signing the agreement that would make Delmenico's presidency official, Delmenico began to suspect he was about to be double-crossed. He held fast to the documents that Gardner needed to keep the project moving. Instead of granting Delmenico his agreed-upon stake, Gardner fired Delmenico in January 2002 and sued for the documents.
Another partner in the project, Louis Williams, an accountant who had a long history with the Gardner family, found himself in a predicament nearly identical to Delmenico's. And Williams, too, hopes to win back his money in court.
Without Delmenico and Williams, Gardner was left to fend for himself. It appears that only then did he grasp the staggering complexity of this undertaking.
Three years passed, during which time Gardner's legal problems multiplied. He was soon found to be in default of his mortgage and in February a Cook County court entered a judgment of foreclosure on 1000 S. Michigan. It will take millions within the next few months to keep that from happening.
"He was strictly the guy who would put up the money and get out of the way," says Wexler of Gardner. "His big mistake here was thinking he was something he wasn't ... From what we can see, it was just a matter of greed. He wanted 100 percent of the project without realizing that he couldn't do all the work."
Gardner, who keeps several addresses, could not be reached at his only listed number, in Glendale, Ariz. He left no number at the 1000 S. Michigan management office. He has legions of attorneys, but none returned calls for this story.
That Guy Gardner got in over his head came as no surprise to a group of residents just four blocks away, at the Townhouses on Wabash at 14th, site of a much smaller but similarly bungled development.
Gardner purchased the townhouses eight years ago, and according to its residents one of the conditions of that purchase was a court order requiring that Gardner complete extensive repairs left unfinished by the previous owner. Instead, Gardner told residents that he had been misled by the previous owner and didn't have the money to shore up the property.
He did, however, have enough money to file suit against residents who sought to form a homeowners association. Meanwhile, residents say he neglected to pay taxes on the property or to pay the many contractors who had invested their own work. Plumbers, carpenters, roofers knocked on resident doors in their efforts to find Gardner, who did not leave a forwarding address. Indeed, a search of Cook County Circuit Court reveals a long list of liens against Gardner.
"He is not a very nice person at all," says Anna Correa, a resident in one of the Wabash townhouses who is named in one lawsuit. "I would think that he's done a lot of people dirty. All you see is people who have suffered because of their association with him."
With a record like his, it's a wonder Gardner got city approval for 1000 S. Michigan in the first place. Ald. Madeline Haithcock had supported the project based on an interest in seeing property development in her ward, as well as minority ownership--Gardner is black. She has since forgotten about the project. Contacted late last week, Haithcock was surprised to learn of the foreclosure judgment. Asked whether she now regrets her support, Haithcock snapped, "I don't have any regrets. Why would I have regrets?" She doesn't know whether Gardner still intends to develop the property, saying, "that's his business, not mine."
It's remarkable, too, that Gardner was deemed worthy of such a huge loan. That he owes to CIB Bank, which last year earned special attention from federal regulators based on questionable lending decisions--the 1000 S. Michigan mortgage to Gardner being an example.
"Honestly, if some bank is willing to give [Gardner] money, I want to be the next one in line," says Correa.
In August, CIB Bank was sold to First Bank, Inc. of St. Louis. A CIB Bank attorney did not return calls for comment on the 1000 S. Michigan loan. First Bank representatives declined to comment on the foreclosure proceedings.
If Gardner doesn't come up with the money to redeem his loan, then the property would go to judicial sale, a process that would likely end with a new developer. The flux hasn't helped condo values next door, at 910 S. Michigan, where residents hired an attorney to help fight for modifications in the building. As originally designed, the 1000 building was to turn its neighbor's courtyard into a dark cavern and shear off a southeast view of the lake by building 10 feet away. Neighbor concerns reduced the height of the building and allowed for more space between the two buildings.
"If indeed there is some transfer of ownership, we don't know where we stand in relation to those already agreed-on issues," says Alvin Lubov, a member of 910 S. Michigan's condo board.
But at least one party who is in the loop, DeStefano architect Scott Sarver, says that Gardner has attracted new partners who have the funds needed to save keep the development alive. "I believe the project is viable and will go ahead," says Sarver, who picked his words carefully. "My current understanding is that the project will go ahead with Mr. Gardner's involvement."
That news is greeted with heavy skepticism among people who have received assurances from Gardner in the past. "If he has a hand in the 1000 S. Michigan development," says Correa, "you can rest assured it will never be built."
1000 S. Michigan hits auction block
Embattled developer still faces breach of contract suit
By HAYDN BUSH
A downtown auction house put the 1000 S. Michigan highrise project, owned by beleaguered developer Guy Gardner, on the auction block Sept. 28, with bids due from would-be developers by Nov. 30. Gardner has faced foreclosure for loans related to the project since last year, and was recently sued for breach of contract after attempted to gain further financing for the deal. Steven Good, chairman of Sheldon Good and Company Auctions, said this week that prospective buyers would be able to begin construction on the property as soon as a deal was reached. Good added that his auction house has already received calls from would-be buyers, in what he termed "a turnkey opportunity." Gardner was not available for comment this week.
"There's been great interest," Good said.
The building project Gardner developed and gained approval for last year before his loan was foreclosed on includes permanent lake views facing Grant Park, and would begin with the 40-story East Tower, with units ranging in size from 980 square foot, one-bedroom residences to 4,000 square foot penthouses. The second and third phases would include two 32-story towers on the west side of the property, currently a surface parking lot.
With all the zoning and permits in place, Good said, Gardner's plans for an L-shaped collection of three condominium towers on the narrow Boul Mich property would require little extra work from the future owners.
In August 2004, Gardner's plan for three buildings containing a total of 655 residential units was approved by the Chicago Plan Commission. Good said that 68 percent of the 301 residences planned for the first phase of the project have already been sold to potential buyers, in what he said amounted to "more than $120 million in potential revenue." Sheldon Good and Co., has sold several Boul Mich properties in the past, including the 112 S. Michigan building and 8 N. Michigan, Good said, but he said the 1000 S. Michigan was one of the most attractive opportunities to go through his auction house.
"This is probably the best development site we've seen downtown for a condo job," Good said. "...You usually don't see sites of this size in this stage of readiness."
Residents at 910 S. Michigan, the building directly next to the 1000 S. Michigan project, had initially opposed the project, in part because Gardner's initial plan would have constructed one of the buildings smack on the property line that seperates the buildings. But Gardner agreed to add 12 feet of space between the two properties shortly before last August's Plan Commission hearing, where he received little opposition.
Alvin Lubov, a member of the 910 S. Michigan condo board, said he hopes that whoever purchases the building works with his board on possibly increasing setbacks between his structure and the three new buildings that will surround it. Lubov said he is especially concerned about the two buildings planned on the west end of the site. Lubov said that area, currently used to access 910 S. Michigan, may be a bit of a tight squeeze if the project includes a planned garage.
"I hope that whoever gets it is someone who is sensitive to the situation we have described in terms of setbacks," Lubov said. "Clearly, we would wish them well."
Gardner's troubles extend beyond the sale of 1000 S. Michigan. He was recently slapped with a $75,000 breach of contract suit brought by Big Horn Capital, Moody Group International and Moody Investment Co, who Gardner reportedly approached for help financing the project. The suit alleges that Gardner agreed to an arrangement whereby 60 percent of the project would be owned by the new investors, while he would retain 40 percent ownership. However, the suit claims that Gardner then provided an appraisal that overstated the worth of the property by $19 million, which the suit alleges constitutes a breach of contract. Gardner's attorney was not available for comment this week, but Good said the auction arrangement will be the quickest way for Gardner to dispose of the property.
"There's no question that the intention of Mr. Gardner is to exit the deal," Good said.
Good added that he has made contact with Gardner's lender, First Bank, Inc., which purchased the original lender, CIB Bank, this year. Good said First Bank, which foreclosed on Gardner earlier this year, supports the auction.
"The lender's in concurrence with the idea that an auction is best way to go," Good said.
1000 S. Michigan project gets new life
Three-highrise effort apparently sold to South Loop developer
By HAYDN BUSH
The oft-delayed 1000 S. Michigan project has apparently been sold to Renaissant Development, and construction on the first of three highrises on the property could start early next year, Grant Park Advisory Council President Bob O'Neill said Tuesday. The property had been owned by Guy Gardner, who has faced foreclosure for loans related to the project since last year. Gardner was recently sued for breach of contract after attempting to gain further financing for the deal.
Warren Barr, president of the Oak Brook-based Renaissant Development, was not available for comment this week, but O'Neill indicated that he had spoken with Barr recently, and said the company plans to begin construction shortly. O'Neill has long advocated for more residential development in and around Grant Park, and said the 40-story building would help frame Grant Park and replaces an "unattractive" surface parking lot.
"We're trying to encourage that... the building that go south of Congress complete the frame and respect the historical wall," O'Neill said.
The building project Gardner developed and gained approval for last year from the Chicago Plan Commission includes permanent lake views facing Grant Park. It would begin with the 40-story East Tower, with units ranging in size from 980 square-foot, one-bedroom residences to 4,000 square-foot penthouses. The second and third phases would include two 32-story towers on the west side of the property, currently a surface parking lot.
Residents at 910 S. Michigan, the building directly next to the 1000 S. Michigan project, had initially opposed the project, in part because Gardner's initial plan would have constructed one of the buildings smack on the property line that separates the buildings. They were also concerned that much of their southern light would be eliminated by the building. But Gardner agreed to add 12 feet of space between the two properties shortly a Plan Commission hearing in August 2004, where he received little opposition. After that, though, the project faltered.
When informed of Barr's apparent plans to buy the building Eve Noonan, a resident of 910 S. Michigan, said she was still holding out hope that Barr could be convinced to entertain a bolder design for the property than the current drawings.
"We're still hoping for pizzazz rather than routine," Noonan said.
Nevertheless, Noonan said she was looking forward to working with Barr, who has constructed or proposed several other South Loop buildings and who Noonan says has a good reputation for working with neighbors.
"We're glad it's a first rate company," Noonan said. "That will be a change."