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Breathing New Life into a Classic Art Deco Property

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Chicago's Sterling Bay is repositioning the 1930 tower at 121 W. Wacker

Over the past several years, Chicago-based developer Sterling Bay has made a name for itself by breathing new life into uniquely positioned properties. The company’s office conversion of the West Loop’s Cold Storage building into the Chicago headquarters of firms such as Google and SRAM has had a catalyzing effect in establishing the Fulton Market area as the epicenter of the Windy City’s burgeoning tech scene.

The developer hopes to repeat its magic in the Loop proper, as it continues to renovate Holabird & Roche’s 1930 Art Deco jewel of a building at 121 W. Wacker. While the firm obviously saw tremendous potential in the 41-story throne-shaped office building when it made a play for the property last year, its repositioning requires a careful balance between historic preservation and creating value with the addition of the comforts and conveniences that modern tenants expect in Chicago’s highly competitive commercial real estate market.

To achieve their vision of a rejuvenated 121 W. Wacker, Sterling Bay modernizing the property's elevator system and set about creating a dedicated tenant amenity facility dubbed Club 121. The new shared space will include new lounges, conference rooms, fitness facilities and rooftop terrace to take advantage of the tower’s waterfront locale. These upgrades will allow Sterling Bay to compete directly with the Merchandise Mart which has undergone a similar and wildly successful repositioning just across the river.

Attention is being given to the lobby space at 121 W. Wacker as the relatively dated wall, floors, and ceilings are revamped and new food service added. The new design of the ground level concourse strikes a tone decidedly more grown up that some of the trends seen in other tech-specific workplaces as it features mid-century design cues while also referencing the building’s Art Deco past.

Though Chicago’s market for place-specific and amenity-rich office space continues to get more crowded, Sterling Bay is sitting pretty at 121 W. Wacker as tenants are expected to move in later this year. The firm is also planning the redevelopment of a half-finished office project at 1330 W Fulton, a new offices for CH Robinson along the Clybourn Corridor, and an office complex replacing Oprah’s former Harpo Studios.

· Art Deco Riverfront Highrise to Get the Sterling Bay Treatment [Curbed Chicago]

· Chicago Loop archives [Curbed Chicago]