THE BIOGRAPHY OF CHICAGOS MARINA CITY
Written by Steven Dahlman
An informal survey by the Chicago Tribune showed this to be bad news to most residents but not a surprise. They preferred to pay rent and were not looking forward to moving.
Marina City architect Bertrand Goldberg, who was 64 in 1977, did not approve of this parceling. He said each entity was dependent on the other.
Condominiums would be offered to residents first. Existing leases would be honored, meaning that some residents had close to a year to decide whether to buy or move.
On September 15, 1977, Marina City Sales, Inc., a new company led by Charles Swibel, announced condominium units would be offered for between $26,000 and $80,000. Studios would be priced from $26,000 to $34,000. One-bedroom units, $42,000 to $56,000. Two-bedroom units, $74,000 to $80,000.
The group complained about high-pressure sales tactics, including sending sales literature to residents in an envelope with THE END IS COMING written in large red letters.
When sellers refused to release the full text of an engineering study, tenants hired their own engineer to inspect the building. Several cases of deferred maintenance were found. Marina City said the repairs were minor and they would make them, but they would not put this in writing.
Against what totaled $32 million in mortgages on the entire complex, Marina City was expected to gross $41 million from the sale of condominiums. (Today, the residential units have an estimated combined value of about $200 million.)
Enter Fast Eddie
Three years later, on July 8, 1980, a class-action lawsuit was filed in federal court charging Charles Swibel with monkey business in the condo conversion. The suit charged that a city council ordinance, supported by 10th Ward Alderman Edward Fast Eddie Vrdolyak (a Republican who ran unsuccessfully for mayor in 1989 and in 2007 was indicted in a fraud and kickback scheme) allowed Swibel to make very large profits by selling 50 condo units to Vrdolyak at bargain basement prices.
It required city council approval because the original Marina City was a planned development, a special zoning package, explains Howard Swibel. It required a change in the plan that it was going to be privately-owned apartments. So the city council had to approve it, but why would the city council not approve it?
Swibel points out that his father was given the task of selling 896 apartments as quickly as possible. So they were looking for investors people who werent necessarily going to be individual residents but might be, basically, bulk purchasers.
Vrdolyak, says Howard, was a friend of his fathers. They dealt with each other all of the time. He said hed be willing to borrow the money from the bank to buy the units. He paid the list price, there was no discount. And he got the same kind of financing package that other people were able to get from Continental Bank.
And then there were the missing assessment records
Three days before the 1980 class action lawsuit was filed, it was learned that several assessment records from 1978 for a portion of Marina City owned by Charles Swibel were missing from the Cook County Assessors Office. They were found the following week. The deputy assessor, Arthur Murphy, said the assessment for that part of the building was not affected, and the missing information could have been reconstructed.
Swibel still owned the first 19 floors of both towers, which was used mostly for parking. He had sought to lower his property tax assessment, based on income statements. There were charges that Marina City was under-assessed because 25,000 square feet were missing from the total square footage noted by the assessors office. However, Murphy said that by basing the assessment on the propertys income, the amount of land was not relevant.
|Last updated 29-Nov-11||