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The Forgotten History Of Chicago Supertalls: 5 Things You Didn't Know About Trump International Hotel & Tower

It's Chicago's second-tallest building and bears the name of a man who may be elected president tomorrow.

Trump International Hotel & Tower, Chicago

Trump International Hotel & Tower has settled nicely into Chicago's iconic skyline, with a design that nods to the skyscrapers that preceded it and a backstory worthy of being included in our forgotten history of Chicago supertalls series.

1. It Was Built On The Former Sun-Times Building Site

Wacker Drive and Michigan Avenue, Chicago

Donald Trump always wanted to build in Chicago, and the former owners of the Chicago Sun-Times, Hollinger International, came calling in 2000 with a deal he couldn't refuse: buy the Sun-Times building. The Trump Org paid $77M for the property and announced plans for a 1,500-foot-tall building on the site, which would have been the tallest skyscraper in the world at that time. It was later lowered to 1,389 feet, with Trump citing the threat of terrorist attacks for the change in plans.

Trump commissioned Skidmore, Owings & Merrill to design the tower, with Adrian Smith (fresh off designing Jin Mao Tower) as the lead architect. After initial proposals failed to pass muster with residents and community groups, Smith hit upon a stacked design for the building that echoed the look of Willis Tower. Smith would eventually form his own firm with fellow starchitect Gordon Gill.

2. It's The Tallest Reinforced Concrete Structure In The World

Trump International Hotel & Tower, Chicago

Trump Tower is tied for North America's third-tallest building with New York City's 432 Park Ave. It was also home to the world's highest residence until completion of the Burj Khalifa in Dubai.

As we mentioned in last week's profile of Two Prudential Plaza, Trump Tower is the world's tallest reinforced concrete structure. During a 24-hour period in October 2005, construction crews poured 5,000 cubic yards of concrete to create the foundation. That mat measures 200 feet long, 66 feet wide and 10 feet deep. The concrete provider, Prairie Material Sales in Bridgeview, used a concrete formula that was the first of its kind in construction, capable of withstanding up to 10,000 psi.

3. Bill Rancic Was The Initial Project Manager

CONLON Commercial's Sean Conlon, with Bill and Giuliana Rancic

Donald Trump was making the transition from real estate developer to reality television star when he broke ground on Trump Tower in 2004. The project gained international headlines when Bill Rancic (center), winner of the first season of The Apprentice, chose to manage Trump Tower's construction over the cushier option of running one of Trump's golf courses.

Because Rancic was technically an "apprentice," Trump didn't throw him directly to the wolves. For two years, Rancic focused on marketing and sales for the project, while Donald Trump Jr. was the point man for the tower's construction. It was a wise division of responsibilities: Rancic started and sold his own online cigar business prior to The Apprentice while Donald Jr. was groomed from birth to join the family business.

4. The Retail Storefronts Are Still Empty

Trump International Hotel & Tower, Chicago

The impact of Trump Tower on the skyline can't be ignored. Nor can the contributions of the project to public space; its improvements to the riverwalk may have jump-started the city's own work along the river, and served as a blueprint for other developers' projects.

But Trump Tower's empty retail storefronts stand out like a sore thumb. The 70k SF of retail has been vacant since the building opened in 2008. The vacant space leaves millions in lease revenue on the table, but Trump has been able to use it to reduce his property tax bill.

5. The Signage Faced Controversy

Trump International Hotel & Tower, Chicago

Adrian Smith's design for Trump Tower, teeming with glass and stainless steel, complements the nearby architecture of Tribune Tower and the Wrigley Building and earned raves from architecture buffs.

But when Trump added his name to the tower in 2014, critics and residents objected to the 20-foot-high letters, believing the design should stand on its own. The most prominent critic was Tribune architecture critic Blair Kamin, who wrote that the addition of Trump's name to the building "betrayed" the positive feelings residents formed from Smith's design.

Trump defended the move, saying he had an agreement with former Mayor Richard Daley and later, Mayor Rahm Emanuel to erect the sign. He also struck back at Kamin, calling the Pulitzer Prize winner and Harvard fellow a "third-rate architecture critic."

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