11 dec 08 The Chicago Tribune

Trump trying to get city's final okay for spire installation this weekend

by Blair Kamin

The spire atop Donald Trump's Chicago tower, the tallest building in America since Sears Tower, could be lifted into place by a helicopter this weekend, but only if city and federal officials give final approval, an executive who works with the New York City developer said Wednesday.

The installation would likely start at 8 a.m. on Saturday and could last for one or two days, depending on how quickly construction progresses. The Chicago River, located just south of the 92-story hotel and condominium tower, could be closed while the Wabash Avenue Bridge could be opened, in effect shutting down traffic on the north-south street that adjoins the sTrukyscraper, according to the Trump executive.

"We keep getting closer and closer," said Andrew Weiss, executive vice president of the Trump Organization, in a telephone interview from New York. "If anyone is unhappy or doesn't like it, it kills the whole thing." He said meetings are being held with a variety of city officials and that the discussions will continue Thursday, with Trump hoping to get the city's ultimate okay.

The installation already has been delayed several times--once, Weiss revealed, because city officials were not happy with a plan to allow the helicopter to land in the open space between the Trump tower and the Wrigley Building in order to refuel. Plans now call for a different kind of helicopter to refuel off-site and return to the skyscraper for additional installation work.

To avoid another postponement, Weiss said, Trump still must cross several hurdles, including sign-offs from the city's police and fire departments, a Federal Aviation Administration inspection of the helicopter and an interview with the helicopter pilot. "This guy's like the surgeon with the gloves," the executive said.

The spire measures 227 feet and eight inches high and is made of three-legged sections of steel covered in fiberglass. Once it is installed, the Trump tower will rise to a height of 1,361 feet, making it the second tallest building in Chicago--and the nation--after the 1,451-foot Sears Tower.

New York's Empire State Building is 1,250 feet tall.

The bottom of the spire already is built and protrudes above the skyscraper's roofline. The remaining sections of the spire were lifted into place by a construction crane and now sit on the roof, "standing like soldiers in a row," Weiss said. The helicopter will pick up the sections, one at a time, and hover over the spire. Construction workers will be sure that the sections are properly aligned and will then bolt them into place.

Asked about the weather forecast for Saturday and Sunday, Weiss said: "It's going to be in the high 30s, mixed clouds and sun." Referring to the construction workers, he said: "These guys have to stand up there--partially inside the spire with their heads sticking out. If it's snowing and raining and it's slippery, it's just not conducive for working safetly."

Officially known as the Trump International Hotel & Tower Chicago, the skyscraper was designed by Adrian Smith of the Chicago office of Skidmore, Owings & Merrill. Smith has since left Skidmore to start his own firm.