Helicopter hauls a big “k” on a building construction site located near the Carbide building on Michigan ave. | Al Podgorski~Chicago Sun-Times

New life coming to old Merc site on Washington

SHARE New life coming to old Merc site on Washington
SHARE New life coming to old Merc site on Washington

The half block that sits empty on the west side of Franklin between Washington and Randolph is a laggard in Loop development. Owned by the billionaire Crown family in partnership with Tishman Speyer Properties, it’s never arrived at the real estate marketing party in time to secure interest from tenants.

The owners have gotten little but parking revenue from the site for years. It used to have a building on it, the old Chicago Mercantile Exchange at 300 W. Washington, but the Crowns flexed their muscle at City Hall and got it torn down in 2003. It was architecturally significant, filled with paying tenants, but it was torn down in expectation of something loftier that never came.

Now, however, the Crowns and Tishman are gearing up for a slowly improving office market that could support new corporate monuments. Tishman Managing Director Vicki Noonan said plans are in the works for a million-square-foot development. The owners have hired the Chicago-based firm Krueck and Sexton Architects to draw up plans.

Noonan discussed the project briefly Tuesday morning and promised to get back, but never did. A Tishman spokesman said renderings were not available.

Noonan told the website Bisnow earlier this month that she expected marketing materials for the site to go out by the end of April.

Krueck and Sexton’s Chicago work includes the Spertus Institute on Michigan Avenue and the Crown Fountain (there’s that name again) with the faces on it at Millennium Park.

The Franklin parcel is just two blocks west of City Hall. It’s an important location for first-rate design. As for what’s in the works, this is all I have to go on from Krueck and Sexton partner Ronald Krueck:

Tishman Speyer “is always interested in good design,” he said. “They tend to hold onto their properties and have found that design is a good investment.”

BUY A VOWEL? If you were downtown the last couple of Sundays, you might have wondered what a helicopter was doing among the high-rises near State Street and the river. Another exercise for the NATO summit?

Nope. It was construction activity by true “men of letters.” They were changing the Unitrin signs at the top of the 1 E. Wacker building to Kemper for Kemper Corp., the insurance company that owns the 50-year-old tower. Unitrin changed the name to Kemper, its best-known operating unit, last year.

The new LED signs on the north and south sides of the building were lighted for the first time Tuesday night. Company officials said the signs will consume half the power of the old versions.

HERD THIS ONE? School kids are taught about Mrs. O’Leary and her cow. Not so well known was another cow owner with an impact on Chicago, and it was up to real estate broker Jonathan Zimmerman to enlighten me.

Zimmerman, among the busiest agents downtown, has started his own firm, Willard Jones Real Estate. I asked him about the significance of the name. It turns out Willard Jones owned land in the 1830s that constituted much of the Loop. He sold pieces, and in 1844 when he sold a section at today’s 100 W. Monroe, he insisted on a 10-foot-wide easement as a cow path. It’s still there, and the 1920s building on the property was designed over and around it.

Historical sources say the Illinois Supreme Court in 1925 upheld the easement, even though by then cows were no closer to 100 W. Monroe than the stockyards.

DOING THE DEALS: The 576-unit Lincoln Meadows apartment development at 10 N. Lincoln Meadows, Schaumburg, sold for $86.7 million, said John Jaeger of CBRE Inc. A unit of TGM Associates LP was the buyer and Invesco Real Estate was the seller. … In a large industrial lease, logistics firm M. Block & Sons took 915,000 square feet at 18801 S. Oak Park Avenue, Tinley Park. Its broker was Newmark Knight Frank Epic. … Holliday Fenoglio Fowler LP represented an affiliate of Kimco Realty Corp. in its $118 million sale of the Streets of Woodfield shopping center, 601 N. Martingale Road, Schaumburg, to Arrow Operating Acquisitions LLC. … Now that the Clare at Water Tower, 55 E. Pearson, has new owners, look for lower prices at the facility for seniors. A partnership of Senior Care Development LLC, Fundamental Advisors LP and Life Care Cos. bought the 53-story building out of bankruptcy for $53.5 million. … Jones Lang LaSalle Inc., representing the Chicago Transit Authority, is bringing in Starbucks at the North and Clybourn Red Line station and doughnut store Glazed and Infused at the Armitage Brown Line stop.

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