Donald Trump Jr. and his security entourage breezed in and out of City Hall Thursday for a meeting with downtown Ald. Brendan Reilly (42nd) about long-vacant commercial space at the base of the riverfront tower that bears the family name.
Trump Jr. hustled out of the meeting, down the stairs and into a waiting black Jeep Grand Cherokee without responding to reporters who shouted questions at him. That left Reilly to talk about the purpose of the meeting.
It was to talk about changes to the tower’s pricey 16th-floor restaurant and establish “ground rules” for marketing the building’s “untenanted commercial space” along the river.
“I made it very clear we don’t want a big disco party out on the river because of quality-of-life concerns,” he said.
“They’re hoping that the uses they bring to the river are ones that I’ll support. They’re not moving quickly. They’re currently marketing the space and they want to make sure, as they’re marketing, they’re not over-promising,” Reilly said.
Reilly was asked whether the meeting might have been an opportunity to persuade Trump Jr. to reduce the size of the massive “TRUMP” sign that Reilly and Mayor Rahm Emanuel considered so garish and tasteless, they moved to rein in future signs along the river.
“I’d love to try and get that sign a lot smaller. We could always talk about that. But right now, it’s really just talking about tenanting the space,” the alderman said.
Commercial space at the base of a marquee building in a prime location along the Chicago River has remained stubbornly vacant, primarily because the Trump family has been “inflexible on pricing,” the alderman said.
“They’ve got 65,000 square feet there. They want to make sure they get a perfect tenant. They’re a five-star hotel. They’ve got luxury residences upstairs. So, they want to make sure that what they bring there reflects well on the property,” Reilly said, forecasting a “mix of uses for the base.”
Changes are also in store for “Sixteen,” Trump Tower’s chi-chi restaurant on the 16th floor.
“It’s a twelve-course meal. You’re investing your entire night there. And it’s not terribly accessible for the average consumer. They’ve decided to lower the price-points, take away the twelve-course meal. A more approachable menu. They’ve made some physical changes to the space as well,” Reilly said.
But, the primary focus was the riverfront space at the base of the building at a time when residents of riverfront high-rises have had it with late-night noise.
“I made it very clear we do not want a nightclub operation outdoors on the river for lots of obvious reason, but acknowledged that is a very attractive space for dining. I encouraged them to pursue restaurant tenants rather than bar and nightclub. All of those options are on the table,” he said.
The question remained, what was so important about the meeting as to warrant a personal visit from Trump Jr.?
Actually, Reilly said it wasn’t so unusual. He’s met with Trump family members in the past to talk about Trump Tower, including Don Jr. and Ivanka.
“This is just how they approach their big, marquee properties. They bring in family members to talk about it,” he said.
While Reilly was meeting with Trump Jr. on the second floor of City Hall, Ald. Edward Burke (14th), chairman of the City Council’s Finance Committee, was riding up an elevator to his third-floor suite apparently oblivious to the meeting.
Burke has paid a heavy political price for saving the Trump family millions while handling the tower’s property tax appeals. But, he recently cited “irreconcilable differences” for his decision to stop representing Trump.
Not surprisingly, Reilly said Burke’s name didn’t come up during Thursday’s meeting. Nor did Reilly’s outspoken and persistent criticism of President Donald Trump, his immigration policies and his constant use of Chicago as a political punching bag.
“We didn’t get into politics at this meeting. We kept it purely to business. They know full well how I feel about President Trump,” the alderman said.
Two years ago, the City Council followed through on a promise to strip then-Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump of an ego tribute he covets: the honorary “Trump Plaza” designation outside the 96-story Trump International Hotel & Tower.
Ald. Walter Burnett (27th) had raised the possibility of punishing Trump more severely – by taking down the massive “TRUMP” sign.
Reilly spearheaded the lesser punishment, citing legal reasons.
“The signage entitlement for that big sign was negotiated before I was even elected. The city was stuck with what we’ve got. We understand Mr. Trump is a pretty litigious guy. And the Law Department was fairly certain that, if he sued, he would likely win,” Reilly said.