Sunday, September 14, 2008

Is Wilson Yard A House Of Cards?

Is Walsh Construction pulling out of Wilson Yard?

A reader writes: "I just got back from a party where I met an iron worker for the CTA, currently working on the Red/Purple Line tracks by the Wilson Yard. He tells me that Walsh Construction hasn't been paid and if they don't get the $ real soon, they're pulling out. The work has stopped, with only supervisors dropping by now and they're getting the equipment ready to pull it out when Walsh decides they've had enough. No specific time frame, but soon."

How many agencies and companies have pulled out of the Wilson Yard project now? Will Walsh Construction join them?

We can't help but wonder if, at some point soon, it'll be Helen Shiller and Peter Holsten, all by their lonesomes.


  1. I find it ironic that I'm ridiculed for talking to a Boarder's employee and mentioning on this board that they're not closing, yet a conversation with a CTA employee is recorded as fact. Interesting

  2. What is going on over there. I haven't seen any pictures from the L lately. Is construction at a standstill or are they still moving dirt around?

  3. So is this house of cards now a version of "I Doubt It," "Slippery Jack" or "Old Maid," or is it still a version of "Screw Your Neighbor" "Rich Man, Poor Man" or "Oh Hell!"? I guess if that hole fills up any more with water this week, it may end up being a version of "Go Fish."

  4. The problem is the credit markets and will be obtaining financing for this project and that is good news for us in Uptown.

    The Spire is also having problems as work has stopped and no GC has been hired yet to actually build it.

  5. Katherine, I see four question marks in the story, including the title. I don't think UU is reporting this as fact, just as an interesting rumor.

  6. Peter Holsten may need to hold off on some of his heavy campaign contributions so that he can pay up some of his debts. Along with Helen, he gave the community the finger so I hope this costs him plenty.

  7. Katherine,

    take a deep breath.


    Feel better?

    Now learn howw to spel "Border's".

    "Boarders" is a nautical term. Per dictionary dot com:

    someone who forces their way aboard ship; "stand by to repel boarders"

    Which is actually one way we should treat Shiller's plans for this neighborhood.

    Stand by to repel Shilleristas.

    As for the rumor regarding Wilson Yard I give it about as much credence as I do the rumor that Sarah Palin is well qualified to be Vice President.

    I do kinda sorta hope that it is correct though.

    "Stand by to repel Holsten and protect your tax dollars." ARRRRRRRRRGH. Fire the cannons and let slip the dogs of war. I would like to apologize to Bill Shakespeare for that last line.

  8. Irishpirate, good use of the word "spel"! LOL

  9. I live within sight of the Yard and there has been no work for about a month. The workers' entrance gate on Montrose has stayed locked each day. The pace and stopping point of the construction reminds me of a few years back when Helen was pushing to have a State of Illinois building built on the southeast corner of Wilson and Magnolia. Construction was started and a foundation hole was dug; according to neighborhood rumor, not all the permits were issued and the building had not even gotten final approval, but Helen and the supporters of the building - which would have had no parking but service hundreds of clients per day for various state programs such as food stamps and unemployment - wanted the project started. Then suddenly worked stopped. For months the hole filled with rainwater until the project was killed, the hole filled in, and construction was started on the condo building that sits there now. Is history repeating itself? Does anyone else have more factual detail about how that project was killed that could help us fix the Yard?

  10. As for the rumor regarding Wilson Yard I give it about as much credence as I do the rumor that Barack Obama is well qualified to be President

    Take a deep breath Pirate we live in the chud of Democratic incompetence(See Wilson Yard).

  11. Occam's Razor.

    Here are the closest things we can see as facts:

    1. TIF money is and has been allocated, and can be used for things like relocating previously existing tennants, environmental clean up, and other site prep activities.

    2. The original plan called for the movie theaters and target to purchase their respective spaces, and to use the money generated from those purchases to offset costs of remainder of the project.

    This was the Shiller "Robin Hood" plan, where she would take TIF seed dollars to get the project started, then pick the pockets of Target and Kerasotes in order to build 200 units of low income housing adjacent to her John's properties.

    It's all in the Wilson Yard documentation that the city puts out.

    3. Kerasotes bails, for whatever reason. Staying within the Occam's Razor philosophy, we dont' know why they bailed. We just know they did. I don't recall the total amount of money Kerasotes was going to pay for their property, but it was several million dollars, a large hole to plug in your budget.

    Helen's plan was to "just add more retail to the project".

    4. For all the speculation about Target and their letters of intent, contracts, or lack thereof, we do know that it's been at least three years since we have been told Target was "in". It doesn't take a rocket scientist to know that it doesn't take three years to build a Target store. If Target were not participating in the project, there would be another gaping hole in the Wilson Yard budget. My recollection of Target's purchase price was somewhere around $20,000,000. Again, the exact numbers are in the TIF documents that the city puts out.

    5. We all know what's happening with retailers in these uncertain times - they are pulling back, not expanding, or putting projects on hold across the country.

    Add to this the issues in the real estate markets, commercial lending (hell, all lending at this point), etc. We are on the precipice of a complete financial system meltdown with companies like Lehman Brothers on the verge of folding, and Merril Lynch and Goldman Sachs not far behind.

    Conclusion, based on the best available information I can find:

    The project is, and always has been a financial pipe dream, and the financing instruments, with the exception of TIF and other government subsidy, have been and will continue to be elusive.

  12. I remember during the last election season, James and Helen had a debate on "Chicago Tonight." When the subject of Wilson Yard came up, Helen was just *bizarre* (more bizarre than normal, that is). She was gleefully chortling: "It's already started! It's a done deal! You can't stop it!" (paraphrasing from memory, of course).

    After that little performance, I really hope Wilson Yard sits vacant for a good long time. Knowing the fate of Helen's "done deals," I'd say the odds are better than fair.

  13. I am the reader that reported this conversation.

    Regarding the conversation and what was said, yes, it's fact. And I was stone-cold sober when it happened.

    Regarding the content - the >truth< of what was said? Yes, of course, it's rumor. And should be taken as such. At best it's fourth hand information:

    Walsh Cons. Management -> Walsh employee -> CTA guy I talked to -> me. God only knows how many layers or handoffs are between steps one and two. He seemed like a stand-up guy, though.

    The guy also had some really interesting things to say about the operations between the city and the CTA these days. One example: The city took over all of the maintenance of the CTA's non-rail & bus equipment (i.e. everything except the busses and trains - front-end loaders, pile drivers, etc.). He works as an operator for their repair/construction equipment. He had a machine break down in Skokie when working on the Yellow line. Guess what? The city said they couldn't come fix it because it was outside the city limits. So he had to fix it himself just enough to drive back into the city before they would touch it.

    By the way - one comment pointing out that retail staff employees usually aren't privy to management's plans is hardly ridicule.

  14. Chip,

    Take a deep breath and think of Hurricane Katrina or Operation Iraqi Freedom when thinking about the competence of our wondermonious GOP leaders. Think about the trillion in debt that my great grandchildren will be paying. Think about the trial of Osama Bin Laden.......oops.

    Now you can go back to looking at your new screensaver of Sarah Palin, a bikini, an assault rifle, and a bikini. Did I mention bikini twice? Hmmm.

  15. Hurricane Katrina-Lesson Learned (Both by federal, state, and local government. Also by the people who this time decided to get the hell out of dodge and not wait for big brother to help.)

    Operation Iraqi Freedom- We won. Enough Said.

    As far as debt? Somehow that is Palin's fault? Dems have had congress for 2 years, no change.

    Osama Bin Laden trial? Thank god the dems don't run his search (Though Clinton was close, snark)
    I don't want him on trial, I want him shot on site. Dead. Period.

    Now, about Uptown & Chicago. Im more concerned about the schools I woudn't send my kids to, the failure of the CTA, the doom of WILSON YARD, the loss of local business, the highest tax rate, gas prices, crime, drugs, ect...
    Your Democratic Dream Pirate.

    Get real Pirate. It's like a business owner on Wilson I talked to who was convinced Bush was the reason his business was dying. Not Cook County, Not Daley, Not Shiller, Not Todd Stroger, not himself. Bush.

    You all have your head so far up the White Houses A$$ you forgot to take care of your own back yard the last 20 years. Now we all pay and have to hear about how bad Palin is an how she ruined your life in 2 weeks.

    Aren't you Green Party Anyway?

  16. "Operation Iraqi Freedom- We won. Enough Said."

    Can we bring the troops home then?

    Define Victory.

  17. I don't want to speak for Uptown Update, but think the last thing they would want HERE is a debate about the U.S.'s Iraq war policy.

    In case I'm wrong about that, Chip Douglas's statement that we've already won in Iraq is the dumbest thing I've heard in ages.

    But I'm still right there with you on Wilson Yard Chip!

  18. Hal:

    I did not mean to cast aspersion upon your reporting of the CTA worker's statements. Sorry if you took it that way.

    I was merely trying to keep us from going in a direction of guesses and assumptions about what's happening with the project.

    The level of secrecy is so high with this project, that even my attempt to lean on facts to draw a reasonable assumption is probably not 100% correct, although I give myself a good 20% cushion.

    The story, as it has played out over the past 3-4 years, has always revolved around financing. Just take a look at how the TIF portion of the project keeps on growing and growing and funding sources fall by the wayside.

    One other aspect of the Wilson Yard story that is purely speculative is Helen's use of this big project, which distracts our attention from the use of TIF funds for rehabbing additional low income housing, building a parking garage at Truman College, etc.

    If the Wilson Yard project completely imploded, I don't think Helen would be too upset. She'll take the earmarked funds and rehab more housing. Who knows? Maybe she'll even try to use TIF funds to bail out HUD buildings whose funding will be ending in the near future.

    Maybe she'd use the earmarked funds to build this McJunkin thing we can't seem to find information about.

    Any way you slice it, Helen will do what she says she always wants to do - build more and more subsidized housing.

  19. Victory: achievement of mastery or success in a struggle or endeavor against odds or difficulties

    I say we have done both. Dumb?

    Now where is the war? Right in our back yard

    "125 people were shot and killed throughout the city between the start of Memorial Day weekend on May 26, and the end of Labor Day on Sept. 1"

    "According to the Defense Department, 65 U.S. soldiers were killed in combat in Iraq."

    "In the same time period, an estimated 247 people were shot and wounded in the city."


    Keep the Democratic Oasis Dream Alive. I live in Chicago, that is scary.

  20. Chipster,

    I don't intend to debate an unarmed opponent so I will say but a wee bit.

    First, I ain't a member of any Green Party. Perhaps you were trying to make an Irish themed joke. Perhaps not. I'm more of a libertarian with a bad moon rising. The current GOP is a bunch of right wing busybodies, neocons, and religious zealots masquerading as "conservatives". I imagine ole' Barry Goldwater is spinning in his Arizona grave. Perhaps we can tap the energy and turn him "green".


    Unlike you I imagine, I've been to Iraq. First time around. Desert Shield/Storm. According to an interview with General Petraeus I heard the other day he doesn't believe it is OVER. Better yes, largely the result of Petraeus and a group of military officers/thinkers centered around the "Small Wars Journal". Of course what does General Petraeus know compared to geniuses such as yourself.

    Third, this board is not really the place to get into long debates about national elections or policy. An occasional wry comment perhaps is all we need. I really have little use for folks here who want to blame the Iraq war for the lack of funding for their own personal favorite government project. This is Uptown Update and we should stick to stuff that directly impacts our hood.

    Fourth, see my opening comment.

    If you want to have fun on national issues head over to DailyKos or some other nationally themed site. Those folks are just as lost as you.

  21. No one wants to read this annoying thread hijack.

  22. Uptown Refugee: Umm, no, I didn't think that. I was actually indirectly responding to katherine's comment. And, no, that's not what "ironic" means. Also, I was looking for a place to share that story about Skokie.

    I completely agree with your analysis. I've long felt that the most likely scenario of stopping the project was replacing Shiller (hence my inital motivation to support a challenger - who turned out to be James, which I was even happier with).

    Given the history, I felt that failing to change the regime, the only way it was stopping would be for it to collapse under its own weight thanks to Shiller's managerial incompetance (which we've seen on many other things). I suspect that this is what's happening and I think your analysis is one perspective on the "how" of said collapse.

    Fortunately, the recent TIF judgement and the Fix Wilson Yard group are making me doubly hopeful. They're doing a great job.

  23. Hal,

    the City has taken over many of the CTA "Mechanic" functions. My source at the CTA, deepthirdrail, told me that months ago. I've also seen it written about in the mainstream press somewhere.

    I'm guessing the reason is that Daley has more control over city workers than he does over the CTA and also it is a way to shift dollars from the CTA budget to the city budget.

    Secondly, CTA workers don't have to live in the city. At hiring they only have to live in the CTA service area which also encompasses a good many suburbs. I'm sure Daley likes to keep those middle class salaries among city residents. I would if I were "da mare".

    As for Wilson Yard it may be a bad economy, bad planning, and bad karma all coming to pass at one glorious time. TIF's are not an unlimited source of funds and they do run out of cash. If it does fall apart, and I hope it does, Shiller can deal with the consequences.

    To her it will seem bad. To me it will be like a night spent with Angelina Jolie and Anne Hathaway on my roof jello wrestling and drinking Guinness. Or as I called it two weeks ago........Saturday.

  24. Someone stated Goldman Sachs is not far behind Lehman on here.

    Goldman Sachs is not in trouble at all financially.

    As far as the credit crunch that is going to affect WY. Target is not coming to WY in this economy or the one in 2009.

    I think it would be real hard for Holstein to find money to build WY and any project is far from a done deal until it is built and people are moving in. (it also is a problem the City has a huge financial gap as well.)

    All over the country companies of all types of cutting back, stopping store expansions etc and in some cases stopping stores before they are finished and putting the real estate up for sale.

    For once in Uptown I think timing is on our side on WY.

  25. Um, they're ALL in trouble.

    Merrill Lynch just got bought by BofA for $44B.

  26. Hey Chippy DoHuglas--Irish Pirate is correct when he referenced Petraeus' recent assessment of the Iraq situation. In fact-he stated that although there has been some progress, Iraq is in a very fragile state. It's uneducated people like you who the McCain campaign will rely on to win votes based on a non-existent platform. A call by a now Bush ass kissing, follower to "fight, fight, fight" for ?....Nothing. Oh--I'm sorry stand up and fight for the posssibility that a dishonest, Pentacostal Jesus freak who thinks semi-automatic weapons are a necessary tool for civilians can be the leader of our country should he die. Because, you know, she can see Russia from parts of Alaska. But hey, chippy, trickle down economics has worked so well for us over the last--oops-it has never worked--even Reagan changed his tax policies--but why not try it now when our nation is already in an economic slump?

  27. Now see, I was learning lots of good stuff about Wilson Yard, and then this turned into a debate on the Iraq war and other political matters. Thats not what this post is for. Now, I wouldn't be against having a sister site for UptownUpdate political disucssions, but I think the policies that divide us national are wholly unrelated to the policies that bind us locally.

    But as I've said before, I love a good political discussion, so if someone wants to set one up at Kawaha(or however you spell it) coffee house, I'd love to attend. In fact, arguing about our political differences are how my mother and I finally healed and ended those trouble teenage years of mine. We couldn't talk about anything as we had no common framework for discussion, except politics. As such, I've always believed that political discourse can bring people together, even when they don't agree.

  28. Sorry no one was posting, so Irish and I were having a fun debate. Really folks, it's not that serious. (Our debate, not the issues)

    Not trying to "HI-Jack" the post when no one is posting. It was a Sunday night for crying out loud.

    Sorry Pirate, I do recall you making a joke (didn't catch it at the time) a few weeks ago that you had to go to your Green Party meeting.

    Thanks for serving though!

  29. Maybe we could start a bet going about when it will be announced that Target is pulling out (like they were ever really in.)

    There comes a time when a lie becomes too obvious, even to the most ardent Helen supporter. She's looking like an idiot either way and I figured she would want to get it over with and just announce it. Maybe Dollar Store could be her next choice as the anchor but I hear they are in huge troubles too. Seems they are having a very difficult time finding items to sell for just a dollar.

  30. Oh, HoleyMoley, you forget. Helen does not have one single ounce of compromise in her.

    No, no, it's always stand fast and never, ever, EVER admit a mistake or doubt. She's very predictable that way.

    She'll lie about, or -- as we've seen lately -- just ignore anything that doesn't fit in with her idea of how things should be.

    Admit Target isn't coming? After years and years of promising it's just around the corner? Admit Wilson Yard isn't a middle-class paradise? Admit that there are drugs and gangs and murders right outside her front door? Admit that inviting Labor Ready wasn't a crackerjack idea?

    NEVER! She'll be painting little red circles on the fence and preparing a doggie bed for that white bull terrier mascot until her last day in office. Which hopefully isn't far away.

  31. Walsh are major Daley pals, but no one can work on faith very long in this environment

  32. Don't expect much activity at Wilson yard until next Spring.

    Good luck laying a foundation with all that water in the yard, more rain on the way as part of the seasonal precipitation, and increasingly cooler temperatures until the soil starts to freeze around November.

    The picture you take now will look an awful lot like the picture you will take in the Spring.

  33. Has Holstein lined up financing? If not good luck.