Story URL: http://news.medill.northwestern.edu/chicago/news.aspx?id=88925
Story Retrieval Date: 8/27/2014 10:12:04 PM CST
Renita D. Young/Medill
With the Trump brand now a permanent fixture in the neighborhood, downtown Chicago residents and workers have mixed feelings about what its presence means during times of a flimsy economy, depressed housing and the gap between the rich and poor growing wider.
The Trump International Hotel and Tower Chicago, located at the old Chicago Sun-Times building site on the Chicago River, boasts "breathtaking" city views, a remarkable restaurant and the "most amazing" spa" in the city, according to the company. Given the appeal this structure has added to Chicago, some may find it hard to believe that it could bring any distress to the city or its residents.
Ald. Brendan Riley of the downtown 42nd Ward said at a media reception previewing the building last month, “projects like this one will help fuel the economic engine for years to come.”
Soon to be the second tallest building in the city, Trump Tower will stand 92 stories and 1,392 feet tall. To date, more than 75 floors have been poured, according to Leah Harriett, sales manager for residences at Trump Tower Chicago. Harriett said that because construction crews do “staggered construction” on the floors, she is not able to determine how many floors are fully complete. Concrete crews pour two floors of the building every week.
Local architects have mixed views about the design and aesthetics of the prominent new tower. [See accompanying video.]
According to Harriett, approximately 75 percent of Trump Tower's hotel condominiums and residences are sold. Condominium residences are scheduled to open this summer, and construction of all units should be complete by the summer of 2009, with the entire project completed later that year.
Trump Tower condominium residences range in size from 580 to 6,800 square feet with prices that vary from $580,000 to more than $9 million. Costing anywhere from $850,000 to over $3 million, the hotel condominiums are 530 to 2,245 square feet. Trump Tower representatives declined to release hotel condominium room rates, however, according to the website, current prices range from $385 to just over $1800. Lauren Larson, public relations representative for Trump Tower Chicago, said the “Trump Experience” rates on the website are special first-year rates.
The hotel condominiums, some of which are owned by buyers of residential condos in the building, opened last month and have regular visitors. According to Peter Raisch of Taylor Johnson & Olesker, a public relations company that represents Trump Tower Chicago, investing in hotel condominiums is a growing trend that’s an alternative form of ownership in the uncertain current real estate market. “Owning a hotel room is like an investment. It’s also a way for hotels to gain revenues with the market the way it is.” Raisch said this trend is especially common among “high-end” hotels.
The building’s reputation has survived earlier controversy over city building officials’ decision to allow the hotel to open while the building is still under construction. Now the bar, restaurant, spa and health club are open as well.
Trump Tower brings several possibilities to Chicago. “It will do nothing but drive the nearby property values up,” said Renee Guider-Selmon, who owns a condo in the area. Selmon has lived across the street from the site since before the Chicago Sun-Times building was demolished in 2004.
Guider-Selmon said that in the depressed housing market, she can see the area property gaining considerable value within the near future because of proximity to Trump Tower. “It also gives us bragging rights to be able to say that we live just across the street from Trump Tower. I think it’s a good thing.”
In a different light, Julie Gumiela, a worker at a nearby Dunkin’ Donuts, said the building is just too rich and should be more “down to earth.” She said, “low income housing could go there.” Gumiela, who said she sees no advantages to the new building, continued, “It will only drive area taxes up.”
Brian Champ, a nearby homeless man, said the building’s presence is a sign that those who can, do; and those who can’t, won’t. “I sit right across the street from a multi-billion dollar building and I can’t even get a job there. I filled out three applications and they say I’m ‘overqualified.’” Champ said he takes it in stride and “it’s just business.” He continued, “I don’t get mad; nobody owes me anything. But that’s good for the people who can afford to take advantage of the new building.”
Champ brings attention to how the new building is seen as a part of the community. When Donald Trump was asked at the opening event if there was a plan to give back to the community he remarked, “We work very strongly with the community.”
He went on: “We’re building all over the world and I do that no matter what city I’m in.” Trump, however, did not go into detail of how he plans to contribute to the community.
Asked whether Chicago’s depressed housing market was affecting business, Trump said fine timing afforded him much favor in the current market conditions.
“Hopefully [it’s affected us] positively, because I don’t think that anybody else is going to be building a building in Chicago for a while,” Trump joked. “I don’t see anyone being able to get financing. We have been able to build a building with old financing.”
A different perspective on the new Trump Tower came from workers who directly benefit from new construction and tourism. Tim Kelley, a carpenter steward who’s worked on Trump Tower for three years, said he sees the new building merely as a paycheck, another means to live. “It pays my bills,” although he added that he's helping to construct a building that he'll probably never be able to stay in because of its high room rates.
Trump Tower undoubtedly will bring more tourists to Chicago, as well as more jobs and revenues. Jerry Bafour, who’s a cab driver for Checker Cab, said it will be good for business because of the increased "workload," adding, “it will provide extra money for me.”