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McDonald's Eyes Harpo Studios Site in Fulton Market for Corporate Relocation

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The new headquarters would occupy the site of Oprah's former television campus

Oakbrook-based McDonald’s is close to finalizing a deal to move its corporate headquarters to the West Loop’s Fulton Market District at the site of Oprah’s old Harpo Studio campus, according to a Wednesday report in Crain’s Chicago Business. The potential relocation of McDonald’s suburban HQ has been the source of ongoing speculation since it was reported that the fast food giant was once again shopping for a new home after walking away from a 2015 deal to occupy 350,000 square feet in the Loop’s Prudential Plaza.

In 2014, Harpo which spans the entire block at 1058 W. Washington was sold to developer Sterling Bay for more than $30 million before the studios permanently shuttered later that same year. Last year, leaked renderings, presumably originating from Sterling Bay, showed an eight-story pseudo-warehouse office development slated for the site. Crain’s has confirmed that a 550,000-square-foot proposal, dubbed Randolph West, was indeed envisioned for the Harpo campus. It is now reported that the development firm may be seeking entitlements to construct an even larger building.

Though McDonald’s move will be dependent on Sterling Bay securing a zoning change for the parcel, Chicagoans can expect little if any push-back from City Hall based on the efforts the Emanuel administration has made to accommodate previous corporate relocations to the Windy City’s central core. Assuming a rapid approval process and a quick demolition of the old Harpo buildings, a newly-constructed facility could be ready for occupancy as early as 2018.

While the Fulton Market District is emerging as one of Chicago’s fastest growing office hubs with multiple projects in the pipeline, it will be interesting to see how the proposed corporate campus will fit into the surrounding neighborhood. With a sizable portion of McDonald’s workforce commuting from the suburbs, it is unclear to what extent the new development will cater to automobiles via on-site parking. The location is near the recently-built Morgan CTA station and will likely also utilize dedicated shuttles to and from the Metra hubs at Union and Ogilvie.