The Donald Aims Higher in Chicago


Who's afraid of high living? Not Donald Trump -- or at least, not anymore. The real estate tycoon/TV personality just signed off on his final plans for Trump International Hotel & Tower Chicago, a condominium/hotel complex that will soar 1,360 feet and rank second to Chicago's Sears Tower as the tallest building in the Western Hemisphere.

Never known for subtlety, Trump originally had planned a 150-story tower that, at up to 2,000 feet high, would have been the world's tallest. But within weeks of September 11, he halved the building to 78 stories and 1,073 feet, recognizing that few people would want a home in what might become a target for another terrorist attack.

Those fears apparently are over. With plenty of future residents putting down deposits, Trump has now upped the tower to 92 floors and added a 235-foot spire, taking it to within 90 feet of the Sears Tower. Ground work has already begun.

Trump is betting that Chicagoans aren't the only ones reembracing skyscrapers. He's also planning the tallest residential towers in Toronto and Tampa. Shortly after settling on his designs, Trump talked with BusinessWeek Senior Correspondent Michael Arndt. An edited transcript follows:

Q: After September 11, your tower in Chicago was scaled back substantially. Do you think people have gotten over the fear of high-rise living?

A: Totally. The original design was going to be 150 stories. After September 11, one of my early calls was to abandon that plan. I no longer liked that plan.

Q: Since then, though, you've revised the plans to make it much taller again.

A: The building now is designed at 92 stories, and as you know, we're doing a record sale of that building. It's just amazing. This had long been considered the best site in Chicago. We've sold two-thirds of the apartments. We're now up to $600 million in sales.

I like height. It gives you the view. It gives you the drama. It gives you the architecture. And it has always worked for me.

Q: You've also added a spire on the top, which makes the tower even taller. Why didn't you add more floors or a taller spire to outdo the Sears Tower?

A: I just added two more floors because of our sales success. When I added the floors, I said to the architects, "How much would it take to top the Sears Tower?" They said, "90 feet." That's the equivalent of about nine floors. I thought that's not very much. In a building, you also can top it with a spire -- not an antenna, but a decorative spire -- and count it as part of the building's height. I did a couple of architectural studies, and we were able to top the Sears Tower and even the Petronas Towers in Indonesia. And I decided not to do it.

The reason I decided not to -- and if you had asked me this question prior to September 11, perhaps I would have had a different answer -- is that I did a poll of some of the many buyers. Most of them said it doesn't matter, and 20% to 30% said they liked being the tallest. But 20% of the people said they preferred to stay at the height it is. Twenty percent is a lot of people. I went with that 20%.

One more thing: From an architectural viewpoint, I think the building's massing is more beautiful at its current height than elongating it. I don't want to change the profile, either architecturally or psychologically. I have had a tremendous success with the job. I don't want to change something everyone's in love with.

Q: Nevertheless, this will be the tallest residence in Chicago.

A: It's not solely residential. But this will be taller than anything else except the Sears Tower. I have already the tallest all-residential building in the United States: That's 90-story Trump World Tower opposite the U.N. in New York. That has been a tremendous success. The market has been very good in Chicago and New York, and pretty much everywhere.

Q: Chicago Mayor Richard Daley is satisfied with your final plans?

A: He's great. He really loves the building.


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