New buyer emerges for Chicago Public Schools HQ
Chicago Public Schools' headquarters will live on as an office building, after a previous deal to sell the 20-story Loop tower to an apartment developer fell through.
A venture of Chicago-based Blue Star Properties Inc. has a contract to buy the 507,920-square-foot tower at 125 S. Clark St., which it plans to redevelop as loft office space after CPS moves out later this year, Blue Star founder Craig Golden confirmed.
Mr. Golden declined to disclose a price, but It is believed to be well below the approximately $35 million the school district was set to fetch in a sale to Marc Realty Residential LLC before that deal fell apart, according to sources. David Ruttenberg, a principal at MRR, a joint venture of Chicago-based Marc Realty and Chicago Apartment Finders, declined to comment.
Rather than converting the 1907 building, designed by Daniel Burnham's architecture firm, Blue Star intends to spruce it up and keep it as offices for tech startups and creative firms, Mr. Golden said.
'BEAUTIFUL OLD BUILDING’
The Blue Star venture will invest more than $30 million renovating the building, Mr. Golden estimated. It plans to remove drop ceilings and install larger windows to highlight the 11-foot ceilings and add restaurants, shops and other amenities, Mr. Golden said.
“We're looking to really have a more contemporary, creative, urban feel by lofting and opening up the old space,” Mr. Golden said. “It's a beautiful old building with some great bones.”
While developers such as MRR have been busy converting vintage office buildings into other uses, such as apartments and hotels, Blue Star thinks it can capture tenants from a growing technology community in Chicago. The firm specializes in renovating office, retail and industrial properties in the Chicago area.
Mr. Golden co-founded Chicago-based Sterling Bay Cos. — another firm known for modernizing older structures — in 1987 before leaving to form Blue Star in 2007.
RESTAURANT, BAR PROJECTS
He also is known for his involvement in restaurants, bars and entertainment venues, including Thalia Hall in Pilsen, Longman & Eagle in Logan Square, the Promontory in Hyde Park, and SPACE and Union Pizzeria in Evanston.
Mr. Golden said he already has talked with Bruce Finkelman, his partner in some of those projects, about the two opening some type of eatery at 125 S. Clark.
A CPS spokeswoman declined to comment.
CommonWealth Edison Co., which once used the building as its headquarters, sold it to CPS in 1998. CPS paid $8.2 million and planned to invest about $20 million in the building, the Chicago Tribune reported at the time.
CPS used to use the whole building but more recently has needed only about 200,000 square feet. CPS said in March 2013 that it was looking to sell or lease the building, estimating that moving more than 1,000 employees elsewhere would save $2 million to $3 million annually. It has leased about 160,000 square feet at 2 N. State St., where its space will include part of a recently closed Sears store.