Law firm Kirkland & Ellis, in one of downtown’s largest office leases in years, said Monday it will move to the Salesforce Tower Chicago under construction at Wolf Point.
The 60-story building is expected to open in 2023. Kirkland did not disclose how much space it is leasing, but industry sources believe it is about 600,000 square feet. The firm will move from 300 N. LaSalle Drive.
With business software provider Salesforce taking 500,000 square feet, the Kirkland deal will mean the new riverfront tower at 333 W. Wolf Point Plaza Drive is almost fully leased despite a downtown market seeing its highest vacancy rates in decades. Companies are reconfiguring office layouts, and often trimming space, as employees adapt to working from home in the pandemic.
A statement from Kirkland alluded to the pandemic as a justification for moving its 1,700 Chicago-based workers. Jon Ballis, chairman of the firm’s executive committee, said in a statement that 300 N. LaSalle was a “terrific home,” but that “if we were to stay we would need to completely renovate our practice floors to create more collaborative workspaces and therefore the resulting multi-year construction disruption to our personnel made moving the clear choice for us.”
The firm provided no one for additional comments beyond its announcement.
The lease is believed to be downtown’s largest since 2005, when Kirkland inked a 20-year deal for 300 N. LaSalle, then a building in the planning stages. Kirkland is the largest law firm in Chicago.
The developer Hines built 300 N. LaSalle and is also behind Salesforce Tower, which will be the third and final building on Wolf Point. The firm Pelli Clarke Pelli designed Salesforce Tower Chicago. The other two towers are residential.
Wolf Point, the first settled part of Chicago, is where the Chicago River divides into two branches. Hines developed the property in partnership with the Kennedy family, former owners of the Merchandise Mart and surrounding property.
Newmark Group Vice Chairman Bob Chodos and Savills Vice Chairman Joe Learner were the brokers for Kirkland in site selection and lease negotiations.
Chodos declined to give further details of the Kirkland lease but said the pandemic continues to affect the demand for office space. “Most people are looking for flexibility, taking less space as they have an opportunity to do so,” he said.