Overseas Marketing Key to Success of Chicago Spire

This past week the global sales campaign for the Chicago Spire, a 2,000-foot condominium now under construction on the Lake Michigan shore, continued into Asia, beginning a five-city tour with a presentation in Singapore. The campaign, which began in Dublin in January, was slated to swing through Hong Kong, Shanghai, Beijing and Kuala Lumpur before moving on to cities in Europe and South Africa. Designed by celebrity architect Santiago Calatrava, the Chicago Spire will feature 1,194 residences–no two alike. The project is slated for completion in late 2011. The residences will range from gallerie and suites to one- to four-bedroom homes. Dominic Grace, a principal with Savills plc, London, which is handling the Spire’s marketing, shared with CPN some observations on the ins and outs of marketing commercial real estate to a global audience. 1. In choosing the cities in which to give presentations, he said that the marketing team looked for cities where Chicago is recognized as an emerging “world city,” where Santiago Calatrava is known, where “the local currency benefits from the presently weak U.S. dollar” and where “Chicago property values will be recognized as good value.” 2. Perhaps surprisingly, Grace commented that “Foreign investors typically gravitate towards cheaper units,” not the more expensive ones, since the cheaper ones “tend to be more lettable,” producing a better yield, and also because, for example, four $1 million units give them more flexibility than a single $4 million unit. 3. In terms of amenities, Grace said, “the market is getting increasingly more ‘global,’ and in terms of arrangements of accommodation and specification, there are less obvious differences between cultures/countries these days.” That said, he added, “in Asia, feng shui is a factor.” In addition, “Asian buyers are also looking for properties that are in the heart of the city, near the best restaurants, shopping and business centers.” 4. In a related point, Grace noted that cultural issues haven’t significantly impinged on the presentations. “The product specification and lifestyle that we are promoting at the Spire has ubiquitous appeal, and we have not needed to adapt our pitch/presentations or advertising in any way between countries/cultures.” 5. To simplify things for potential buyers, he explained, a legal and tax-planning team has “put together comprehensive reports to make buyers aware of their responsibilities and requirements” in those areas. 6. Finally, the presence at sales presentations of both Calatrava and Garrett Kelleher, executive chairman of Shelbourne Development Group Inc., the Spire’s Dublin-based developer, has been important to the marketing effort, Grace reported. “Garrett Kelleher is a very ‘hands on’ developer and recognizes the importance of both his and Santiago Calatrava’s contributions to press events around the world.”