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Vista Tower condo buyer sues to scrap $10 million purchase – Chicago Tribune

Chicago Tribune

Sep 08, 2020 7:00 AM

Vista Tower hasn’t opened yet, but a buyer of a $10 million condo in what will be Chicago’s third-tallest skyscraper wants to back out of the deal.

A lawsuit filed last week in Cook County Circuit Court by Steve Vogel, a recreational boating entrepreneur, seeks to void one of the highest-priced condo sales in the 101-story tower, where the first residents are set to move in later this year.

Vogel’s suit comes just over a month after it was disclosed that Chicago developer Magellan Development Group, which owns 10% of Vista Tower, had an agreement to buy the remaining 90% from Wanda Hotel Development, a unit of Chinese billionaire Wang Jianlin’s Dalian Wanda Group.

The planned $270 million sale will end plans by Wanda, the developer of ultraluxury hotels in Asia, to open its first U.S. hotel. The hotel was to include a spa, pool, restaurants and bar, according to the Vista Tower website.

Vogel’s lawyer said the Wanda hotel was a major selling point in the Jeanne Gang-designed skyscraper. Without the five-star hotel, Vogel no longer wants the $10 million unit on the 90th floor, said his lawyer, Chris Agrella.

“They made that a big part of their sales pitch,” Agrella said. “It was sold as a package. The idea is it’s backed by this exotic, hugely successful hotelier. Not only are they going to design the hotel, they’re going to be running it. You can go to dinner there and bring guests there.”

The Vista Tower aligns with Lake Point Tower, as seen from Chicago's Navy Pier on Aug. 13, 2020.

The Vista Tower aligns with Lake Point Tower, as seen from Chicago’s Navy Pier on Aug. 13, 2020. (John J. Kim / Chicago Tribune)

Vogel, who signed a contract to buy the condo and several parking spaces in September 2018, seeks more than $1.7 million to recover his down payment, architectural costs and other damages.

Named as defendants in the lawsuit are Magellan and affiliates, as well as Magellan CEO David Carlins and Leila Zammatta, senior vice president of sales.

Vogel sold Boat Holdings — an Elkhart, Indiana-based company that was the country’s largest pontoon boat-maker — to Polaris Industries for $805 million in 2018. Now living in Florida, Vogel wants to own a second home in Chicago, as he has in the past, Agrella said.

Magellan has not said what it plans to do with the 192-room hotel space Wanda was to operate on the tower’s lower floors.

Carlins declined to comment on the hotel plans or on the lawsuit.

Wanda Group’s sell-off of real estate throughout the world has been well publicized in recent years, but before signing his contract Vogel was never told of the possibility Wanda could exit the Chicago project, the lawsuit alleges.

After Vogel asked about news reports of Wanda Group’s potential sale of its stake, Magellan officials gave Vogel assurances about Wanda’s commitment to Vista Tower, even though they knew as early as 2017 that Wanda was actively trying to sell its stake and end its involvement in the project, the complaint alleges.

In November 2018, Magellan officials conceded to Vogel there was an “outside possibility” Wanda would not wind up operating the hotel, the lawsuit alleges.

After Wanda announced plans to sell its stake, Vogel demanded that his contract be voided and his earnest money returned by the end of August, but Magellan did not respond, the complaint alleges.

The skyscraper, at 363 E. Wacker Drive, is part of Magellan’s 28-acre Lakeshore East development along Lake Shore Drive, the Chicago River and Millennium Park.

In May, Carlins said there were contracts to buy about half of Vista Tower’s 396 condos, with the first residents expected to move in late this year.

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