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Property Once Earmarked For 60-Story Tower Goes To Auction As Its Chinese Investors Go Unpaid

A property once slated to become a high-rise in Chicago’s River North neighborhood is headed to auction after years of local opposition, foreclosure proceedings and federal lawsuits doomed the project.

44 East Superior St., one of three River North properties up for auction after plans for a 60-story condo and hotel complex failed.

New York-based Symmetry Property Development had hoped to build a 60-story condo and hotel development called The Carillon at the northeast corner of Wabash Avenue and Superior Street, and it raised $50M from a collection of Chinese EB-5 investors toward its development, The Real Deal reports.

But that site is now scheduled to be sold at auction by the Cook County Sheriff’s Office Thursday, with the opening bid set at $9M.

The Carillon project first went awry soon after plans for it were made public in 2017. The project faced a wall of community opposition and was blocked at the time by 42nd Ward Alderman Brendan Reilly, exercising his aldermanic prerogative. In the years since, the property was bestowed protected landmark status and became the subject of multiple lawsuits from investors hoping to recoup their investments. 

The Chinese investors each invested up to $550K as part of the federal EB-5 program that gives foreign investors a fast track to permanent U.S. residency status, Loop North News reported last year, noting that despite a 2021 settlement agreement calling for Symmetry to return $49.5M to the Chinese investors, none had received a cent as of September 2022. None have received residency either.

At that time, Symmetry was still insisting the project could be built since the property had been moved out of Reilly’s ward and into the 2nd Ward represented by Alderman Brian Hopkins. Hopkins quickly made it clear he had no intention of overturning the site's landmark status for the project, Loop North News reported.

“The two owners of Symmetry insist they will save the property from foreclosure and build on it,” Doug Litowitz, the attorney representing the Chinese investors, told TRD in an email last week. “Then they will marry Rihanna and Jennifer Lawrence and drive spaceships to their new jobs running the Vatican.”

After failing to cover more than $20M in loan payments, a Cook County judge ruled in March that lenders Madison Realty Capital and Arena Investors could foreclose on the property long owned by Symmetry's Jason Wei Ding and Jeffrey Laytin. The duo filed for bankruptcy in late March in an alleged attempt to elude a foreclosure seizure, TRD reported.

Meanwhile, a federal securities fraud lawsuit over the unbuilt tower has been ongoing for five years, Crain’s Chicago Business reported.