It can be easy to forget that the Illinois Center even exists, its collection of stark black, Mies-designed modernist towers tend to sink into the background as they're surrounded by more flashy towers like the Art Deco 333 North Michigan, the angular Swissotel on Wacker, and Jeanne Gang's eye-catching Aqua tower. But while the Illinois Center's name might not ring any bells for your average citizen, they sit in a very fortuitous location.
The northeast corner of the Loop is going through a transformation right this minute, with the once-sleepy stretch of Michigan Avenue from Wacker to Randolph seeing tons of new construction and retail expansions in an effort to bring some of that Mag Mile energy south of the river. Further, the stretch of Wacker east of Michigan Avenue is about to have new life breathed into it by the Gang-designed supertall Wanda Vista hotel and condo tower that's sure to raise the profile and foot traffic of the area. It's this combination of factors that probably has giant dollar signs flashing in the eyes of the Illinois Center office complex's owner, and now Crain's is reporting that two of those towers are up for sale and could go for as much as $425 million. The two buildings at 111 East Wacker and 233 North Michigan Avenue total over 2 million square feet of office space, and a significant amount of retail space along the ground floor and in its interior pedway.
Construction is already underway for a redesigned plaza on the south end of the complex, which could help to draw more foot traffic from the Michigan Avenue side, but there's no telling what changes a new owner might want to make to try to take advantage of the area's newfound energy. The retail offerings on the Wacker side are a bit sparse, which might be able to be reconfigured to compliment the two-story retail expansion going on next door at 333 North Michigan. The fact that legendary designer Mies van der Rohe designed the Center might pose some preservationist hurdles toward reconfiguring the exterior too much, but it's likely that a potential buyer could see more promise to its retail possibilities than its ample office space. Still, upgrading aging office towers for more modern tastes has been a lucrative business for firms like Sterling Bay.
· Zell REIT could reap $425 million in Illinois Center sale [Crains]
· Making Sense of the Construction Boom Underway in the Loop [Curbed Chicago]
· What the Studio Gang-Designed Wanda Vista Supertall Means for Chicago [Curbed Chicago]
· South End of Illinois Center Plaza To See Landscaping Fix [Curbed Chicago]