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Old Posted Oct 8, 2003, 4:45 AM
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City panel backs snug site for second condo tower

The developer of downtown condo high-rise Kilbourn Tower failed Tuesday in its attempt to delay city approval of a competing tower proposed for a neighboring site.

Fiduciary Real Estate Development Inc., which is building Kilbourn Tower at E. Kilbourn and N. Prospect avenues, asked a Common Council committee to delay for two to three weeks its approval of University Club Tower, which Mandel Group Inc. plans to develop just south of Kilbourn Tower.

Despite the implied threat of a possible lawsuit from Fiduciary, members of the Zoning, Neighborhoods and Development Committee sided with University Club Tower. The committee unanimously recommended approval of the University Club project to the full council, which is to vote on the issue Oct. 14.

Fiduciary is concerned that the 32-story University Club Tower, if built as presently designed, would create a sense of overcrowding with the 33-story Kilbourn Tower, said Craig Raddatz, Fiduciary development director.

To illustrate his point, Raddatz showed aldermen an illustration that depicted both buildings - standing side by side like giant redwood trees.

The towers, which would be among the tallest buildings downtown, would be 25 feet apart for most of their height - roughly the length of two Volkswagen New Beetles parked end to end.

"I truly believe when you see pictures of the two buildings together," Raddatz said, "we are dealing with a huge compatibility issue."

However, Barry Mandel, Mandel Group president, said the $75 million University Club Tower, once it rises above the third story, would be set back 20 feet from the property line it shares with the $52 million Kilbourn Tower - more than the city requires.

Mandel said city regulations require a setback of just five feet - which is Kilbourn Tower's setback from that same property line.

Mandel also said plans for a high-rise on the University Club site, which overlooks Lake Michigan, have been publicly known since 2000. That's when Department of City Development officials rejected a proposal to develop one high-rise that would have used both the club site and the Kilbourn Tower site, and instead called for two neighboring condo towers.

"If I lived in an area with vacant land, I'd know sooner or later it's going to get built," said Ald. Suzanne Breier, referring to the University Club site.

The committee vote came after nearly two hours of presentations by Mandel, Raddatz and city officials.

The dispute centers on two high-rise condos that would cater to the area's wealthiest residents.

Kilbourn Tower has so far sold more than half of its 74 planned units, which have an average price of $875,000. It is being financed through M&I Bank and Associated Bank, and it is expected to be completed by the spring of 2005.

University Club Tower's prospective buyers have reserved 35 of the tower's planned 52 units, which have an average price of $1.5 million. Mandel said he plans to soon begin converting those reservations into signed sales agreements in order for that tower to obtain financing.

Mandel said he hopes to begin construction on University Club Tower by April. He told committee members that city approval would help continue the project's momentum.

"We need to dispel the notions of some people who say our development is not consistent with city standards," Mandel said.

Raddatz agreed that Fiduciary's owners were long aware of plans for the University Club site. He also said the University Club Tower's design, by Chicago-based firm Skidmore, Owings & Merrill, has some "outstanding architectural features."

But Raddatz also said the tower's design, which received Plan Commission approval in September, needs more scrutiny. He said University Club Tower's size and design "must be compatible with adjacent buildings and add vitality to the neighborhood."

Fiduciary last week filed a legal notice with the city clerk's office. The notice said the development of University Club Tower, as currently planned, would hinder Fiduciary's ability to properly develop its building as outlined under the firm's agreement with the city.

Fiduciary's notice suggested moving the University Club Tower off Prospect Ave. to the western portion of the club's parking lot, along Marshall St.

That idea was flatly rejected by Mandel, who said it would "destroy" the tower's design concept. Mandel also said placing a high-rise on Marshall St., where it would be next to low-rise buildings, would amount to bad urban planning.

Raddatz said Fiduciary was open to other "solutions," although he didn't offer the committee any specific suggestions.
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