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British Developer Plans $3.5 Billion, 20-Acre Multi-Tower Complex On Site Of City's Former Post Office

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In the days that have passed since British investor and developer Bill Davies unveiled an ambitious plan to build a $3.5 billion office, residential, hotel and retail mini-empire on the site of the Chicago River-adjacent former post office to the city council, reactions -- most of them criticizing the proposal -- have ignited the city's media circuit.

The plan, as Bloomberg reported, would center around a tower planned to be approximately 2,000 feet tall, which would not only displace the Willis (nee Sears) Tower as the city's tallest building, but would also pass all other North American skyscrapers in height.

The project's first phase would include a 40-story hotel building, in addition to transforming the city's former post office (located at 433 W. Van Buren St.) into a mall-like retail and entertainment complex. The project's final phase would offer two 60-story residential buildings. The price tag for the whole 20-acre project, planned to be completed over the course of a decade, is expected to be $3.5 billion.

2nd Ward Alderman Robert Fioretti (whose ward is home to the proposed center) applauded the plan as "show[ing] a vision that will transform this critical city gateway," according to Crain's. Fioretti is among the proposal's strongest allies on the City Council, which has yet to approve the plan.

But approval from the city is just one of many obstacles that still stand before Davies' plan can become a reality, as the Chicago News Cooperative pointed out. Because Davies hopes to build a pedestrian bridge across the Chicago River, the Army Corps of Engineer would need to OK that aspect of the proposal, and because some of the development would straddle the Eisenhower Expressway, air rights would need to be approved by Cook County, the state of Illinois and the federal government. Finally, because the post office is included on the National Register of Historic Places, there are limits to what can be built directly around it.

The Chicago Tribune called the plan, which has brought on architect Laurence Booth, "as mediocre as it is megalomaniacal" and "a pipe dream" Sunday, but added that "it would be foolish to dismiss it out of hand."

Clearly anticipating a skeptical response, Davies defended his proposal in a statement:

"I would challenge any cynic to look to those developments and then tell me this can't be done," Davies said. "I am confident that with the correct focus and energy and by working in partnership with this great city, that we will achieve our goal."

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