Trump's Chicago Towers Spurs Criticism

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Donald Trump visited his new tower in Chicago for a "topping-off" ceremony. A few of Trump's neighbors would probably have preferred a "knocking-off" event to rid them of the building. While some think it's ugly, others are just peeved because it blocks their view.

ROBERT SIEGEL, Host:

It's All Things Considered from NPR News. I'm Robert Siegel.

MELISSA BLOCK, Host:

And I'm Melissa Block. To see some of the most famous skyscrapers in the country, head to Chicago's downtown and look up. There's the Sears Tower for one, the country's tallest building, and there's another building poised to claim the number two spot. Donald Trump's International Hotel and Tower will be 92 stories of shimmering glass and steel, but its beauty is a matter of dispute, as NPR's Cheryl Corley reports.

CHERYL CORLEY: There's about six months of construction left on Donald Trump's building, but the hotel is open, and many of its luxury condos have been sold. So Trump came into town recently to celebrate. Standing on the 16th floor's huge outdoor balcony and surrounded by a panoramic view of the city, Trump and his adult children press their hands into wet cement and then signed the panels to mark the occasion.

Unidentified Man #1: Mr. Trump!

Unidentified Woman #1: Mr. Trump.

CORLEY: Photographers and camera crews jostle to get the best shot, and Trump congratulated the engineers, designers, architects and others who helped create the skyscraper despite uncertain economic times and a troubled housing market.

DONALD TRUMP: A lot of things that you think will get built in Chicago and elsewhere will never happen. It's virtually impossible. The banks are shut down, but we got this one built.

CORLEY: Trump scaled back plans to build a 2,000 foot skyscraper after the terrorist attacks in 2001. When finished, Chicago's Trump International Hotel and Tower will be 1,361 feet, a height that architect and managing partner Richard Tomlinson puts in Chicago vernacular.

RICHARD TOMLINSON: For basketball fans, this is approximately equal to the height of 209 Michael Jordans.

CORLEY: And the newest landmark in the city considered the birthplace of the modern skyscraper.

JASON NEISES: It's the tallest building built in the United States after 9/11.

CORLEY: Jason Neises with the Chicago Architecture Foundation calls this Trump Tower a symbol of tall building architecture making a comeback in North America. And perhaps there's no more fitting place for such a revival to occur. Chicago's already home to the Sears Tower, once the tallest building in the world, now the tallest in the country, and its designers are the architects of this building, too.

NEISES: Skidmore Owings and Merill submitted several different initial designs for public viewing, and some of those designs were heavily critiqued by the public and also architectural critics at their local newspapers. They were brutal.

CORLEY: Too big for the site, it will bring too much congestion, and the mayor wanted a (unintelligible) to make the building taller. Those were some of the concerns. Design changes were made. But some Chicagoans like Patty and Tom Destafani (ph) don't think of Trump tower as any crowning achievement.

PATTY DESTAFANI: Too much glass and chrome. You know, when I think of Chicago, I think of buildings like across the street, more traditional architecture.

DESTAFANI: I don't think the lines fit with the rest of the area. And I'm not that thrilled about anything Donald Trump's name attached to in Chicago in the first place.

CORLEY: The enormous Trump building sets adjacent to the Chicago River, on a site that was once home to the Chicago Sun Times newspaper. That building, squat and low, was like a waterfront river barge. So when crews started building the 92-story Trump tower, it was like a super-sized big mansion had come to replace a tiny house tear-down. With the same result, angry neighbors, in this case, office workers.

Unidentified Woman #2: She wants to know what we think about Trump Tower. It blocked our view.

Unidentified Woman #3: It blocked our view.

CORLEY: Grand views of the Chicago River and its entry in the Lake Michigan are lovely sites now for the hotel guests and residents of Trump Tower's luxury condos. While those two office workers raced across the street to make a traffic light, Linda McMann (ph) on her way to catch a train said the building had won her over.

LINDA MCMANN: I love the way it looks, the glass. It's beautiful.

CORLEY: But you originally didn't want it to be there?

MCMANN: Yeah, right. It's just so big. I thought it would be just overpowering. But I think looks nice.

CORLEY: There's likely to be more accolades and complaints when the building is complete early next year. And the decorative spire makes Chicago's Trump Tower officially the second tallest building in the country, until, of course, the next big tower is already in the works in New York, in Chicago, touch the sky. Cheryl Corley, NPR News Chicago.

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