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CNA Ditching Red HQ for New John Ronan-Designed Tower

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The downtown office market continues to heat up as real estate powerhouse John Buck Company has announced a deal for Chicago-based CNA Financial to anchor its upcoming 35-story Class A office tower at 151 N. Franklin. The unique agreement also involves CNA selling its iconic red namesake tower — a building that CNA has owned and occupied since opening in 1972 — to John Buck Company in the process. With 151 N. Franklin not slated for occupancy until the Summer of 2018, CNA will continue to lease its current office space back from Buck in the meantime.

CNA's new global headquarters will occupy 275,000 square feet in the yet-to-be-built tower that replaces a low-rise Walgreens and parking lot. Joining a 100,000 square foot commitment by law firm Hinshaw & Culbertson LLP signed earlier in the year, CNA's move brings the building's roughly 820,000 square feet of total space to 47% pre-leased. As part of the deal, 151 N. Franklin will now be named CNA Center. The insurer's red logo can already be seen shining atop the new office tower's parapet and lobby entrance in the most recent renderings.

Designed by Chicago firm John Ronan Architects, the glass building was to originally stand at 30 stories before growing to an announced 36 and then shrinking back down to 35 floors in its final iteration. Early renderings depicted a tower with uniquely rounded edges but this feature appears to have been abandoned. While it's possible the choice was made on aesthetic grounds, it was more likely done for added cost savings or an accelerated construction timetable — or perhaps both. Thankfully the new CNA Center's airy mezzanine terrace and tree-filled plaza (reminiscent of Ronan's Chicago Poetry Museum) look to have survived the redesign.

As for "Big Red" — CNA's original 40-story, 600 foot rust-colored tower at 333 S. Wabash — John Buck Company hopes to retain existing tenants (such as the Chicago Housing Authority and HOK Architects) while also wooing new occupants for CNA's vacated space. Buck is expected to make a sizable investment in the 43-year-old structure and revealed that they are even considering adapting the tower's upper floors to new residential units featuring views of Lake Michigan and Grant Park. The iconic CNA signage on the southern elevation of "Big Red's" crown will most likely disappear.

With Buck's Franklin project nearly half leased and this month's announcements of Navigant and Harrison Street moving to 150 N. Riverside and Riverpoint, respectively, downtown Chicago's new Class A office market is showing encouraging signs of continued growth. Expect more tenant deals to be announced in the coming year not only for John Buck Company's CNA Center but also Tishman Speyer's proposed office tower slated for 130 N. Franklin.

·CNA selling 'Big Red,' moving HQ to new office tower [Crain's]
·John Ronan's 151 North Franklin Gets Its Close-Up [Curbed Chicago]
·151 N. Franklin [Official website]