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CHICAGO-Attorney Thomas Murphy may take on the Federal Aviation Administration as part of his client’s quest to build the country’s tallest building in this city. He’d like to revamp FAA regulations mandating special review and approval of skyscrapers that rise more than 500 feet and can interfere with air traffic. His client, developer Garrett Kelleher of Dublin, Ireland, plans to make a mark on the Chicago skyline with a new 2,000-foot building designed by Spanish architect Santiago Calatrava. The building would look down on the country’s current tallest building two miles away, the Sears Tower. Murphy is in discussions with the FAA and the city of Chicago about the project, he said. Ultimately, he’s hoping to hold down insurance costs that could rise because of the FAA notice on buildings taller than 500 feet, he said. He’d like to see regulations changed not just for his building, but for all buildings that hit the height restriction. “It’s an exception that you’re going to need to get someone to insure over, therefore it becomes something of a burden,” Murphy said in an interview. The FAA sends out a “presumed hazard” notice for any building slated to rise more than 500 feet because it could present obstruction problems for nearby airports. FAA spokesman Tony Molinaro said the agency has an aeronautical study of the project under way. The study will determine the building’s “effect upon the safe and efficient use of navigable airspace by aircraft and on the operation of air navigation facilities,” the June study document says. Chicago and FAA officials as well as executives at Southwest Airlines Co. are in discussions on a “compromise” to accommodate the proposed building and flight patterns from Chicago’s Midway Airport, Molinaro said. Murphy declined to comment on the talks or to elaborate on how he may seek to change the regulations. “We have that [regulation] in place for a reason, it’s a safety reason,” said Washington FAA spokeswoman Tammy Jones. Land use lawyers in Chicago said they expect that the FAA issue, although it may be complicated, won’t be a determining factor as to whether the building goes up or not. DLA Piper attorney Ted Novak, who has represented financier Donald Trump on construction of another Chicago condominium skyscraper, does not think the Calatrava building will be held back by height concerns. “This city has been amenable to creative architecture, including buildings at the maximum height,” Novak said. The building’s plan changed late in 2006 after Kelleher’s Shelbourne Development Ltd. bought rights to the land and project in mid-2006. The new plan has yet to win approval from the Chicago city council and the city Department of Planning and Development. Foley & Lardner attorney Donna Pugh, a land use attorney who worked on FAA approval for the Sears Tower when it was built in the 1970s, said the process was cumbersome. “There was a great deal of bureaucracy involved, so we found it very challenging,” said Pugh, who works with a downtown business association that supports the Calatrava project. Murphy said that changing the regulations would be good for Chicago, where many of the world’s tallest buildings are located. In addition to the Sears Tower, the fourth-tallest building in the world at 1,450 feet, Chicago is also home to the 1,136-foot Aon Centre and the 1,127-foot John Hancock Center buildings. Auto traffic from additional condominiums in the area may be a bigger hurdle than air traffic in getting the building approved, Novak said. The new Kelleher plan added 26 floors, making the building 150 stories high.

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