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(Above left) Rendering by Skidmore, Owings & Merrill LLP of The Carillon, which would have replaced George A. Tripp House (above right) at 42 East Superior Street, along with 44 and 46 East Superior Street.

An attorney for Symmetry Property Development says the 60-story residential tower could still be built at Wabash & Superior now that the corner is located in another ward. Alderman Hopkins disagrees.

7-Sep-22 – An attorney for a New York-based developer that still owes nearly $50 million to Chinese investors says the 60-story residential tower they invested in could still be built at Wabash & Superior now that the corner is located in another ward.

Daniel Hildebrand

“There’s been some good news for the Chicago project,” said Daniel Hildebrand (left) on behalf of Symmetry Property Development during an August 19 hearing with Senior United States District Judge Charles Kocoras. “Pursuant to the new ward maps, the [42nd Ward] alderman [Brendan Reilly] who exercised his aldermanic prerogative will no longer be involved. The parcels are no longer in that particular ward. We think that removes one of the barriers to development of that project.”

In 2017, citing neighborhood opposition, Reilly blocked the project, called The Carillon, from moving forward. Then, in 2020, the Near North Side Multiple Property Landmark District was created, protecting the three parcels Symmetry had sought to demolish, along with 12 other buildings in River North and Streeterville. The single-family homes, row houses, and apartment buildings represent early redevelopment of the Near North Side following the Great Chicago Fire of 1871.

A new ward map, adopted by the Chicago City Council on May 16, places the parcels in the 2nd Ward, but despite Hildebrand’s comments, 2nd Ward Alderman Brian Hopkins is no closer to approving the project than Reilly was, according to a spokesperson on Tuesday.

“Alderman Hopkins has no interest in overriding a landmark designation,” said Brian Pelrine (right), Director of Buildings and Development for Hopkins.

Brian Pelrine

Hopkins introduced an ordinance in 2018 that made it more difficult – and more expensive – for property owners who intentionally neglect their landmarked buildings so they would have to be demolished, creating vacant parcels that could then be sold to developers.

Money still missing

In early February 2021, co-defendants Jeffrey Laytin and Jason Ding, principals of Symmetry Property Development, signed a settlement agreement to return $49.5 million owed to the Chinese investors. A year and a half later, the money is still missing. Hildebrand has said in court that while his clients cannot locate the money, they are acting in good faith.

Doug Litowitz, one of the attorneys for the investors, says he believes his clients’ money was siphoned off long ago by Symmetry’s principals.

Doug Litowitz

“[We] have evidence that the Chinese investment...was never loaned to the failed project as required,” said Litowitz (left). “When no permit was issued to build, they diverted the investment to the managers’ personal accounts and other projects. When they were discovered, they tried to smooth it over with a lie that they would return the money with a $200 million Bahraini loan, which was never investigated, and which had them lying to federal judges for a year.”

The Chinese investors, each of whom had invested as much as $550,000, were participating in the federal EB-5 program that gives foreign investors a fast track to permanent U.S. residency status.

Laytin and Ding have not responded to numerous requests for comment.

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