Thursday, April 19, 2007

Live, Work or Stay Above the Ike

Walton Street Capital, LLC has been trying to figure out what do to with the Old Chicago Post Office Building for as long as I can remember. Many ideas have been bandied about, some more out there than others. Other ideas have included a casino, a waterpark, an auto mall and a telecom hotel.

The latest idea that was approved by a busy Plan Commission is a little more conventional than a mausoleum: dump some of the million square feet in the middle of the building, and build an office tower and residential/hotel tower, with parking spaces and the obligatory green rooftop garden to make certain people in high places happy. Of course, it was reported more than a year ago that similar ideas were being discussed between the City and Walton. So either the deal is heating up again (probably with some plan reworking), or the Sun-Times scooped the Tribune by thirteen months. Your guess is as good as mine, but I'll guess the latter since now the news is of approval and the submission of the plan to City Council.

Raph Dawson of Walton, ever the optimist (and a nice and VERY smart guy, to boot), described this as a "fascinating project, if we can pull it off." The president of Landmarks Illinois, who ought to be the optimist given how hard it is to develop such dirt, called it the poster child of white elephants. Uh huh. I wonder how much asbestos is still there. But I also know this. Walton Street doesn't give up easily when there's that much money to be made.

Besides, white elephants are fun deals. It is what my clients do so well.