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Cook County moving to put prime office space on the market

Thursday, October 04, 2012
Crain's Chicago Business
by Greg Hinz

Cook County is preparing to lease out what may be the most desirable property it owns, hoping to pull in $1 million from rents on unneeded office space in the central Loop.

Likely to go on the market as soon as early 2013 are the top two floors of the county-owned George Dunne office building at 69 W. Washington St., right across the street from the plaza of the Daley center and a few steps from City Hall and the Thompson state building.

The views from what amounts to the building's penthouse are said to be spectacular, and the floor plate isn't too large: 20,000 square feet of usable space on both the 35th and 36th floors.

A final decision to rent the space has not yet been made. But sources close to Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle said she is "strongly considering" including the plan in the new budget she'll unveil late this month.

Aides say the pending move will be one of a series of innovative, strategic efforts to raise needed cash and cut expenses without raising taxes.

The space now is occupied by Ms. Preckwinkle's staff. But I'm told that as few as five people have space there now, and that two large conference rooms are rarely used.

The Dunne building has a notorious past.

Originally named the Brunswick Building when it opened in 1962, it was later occupied by the county and was the location of a deadly fire in 2003 that killed six people after they became trapped in stairwells.

Since then the building has been renamed, and the county is spending $4 million to upgrade the top two floors to today's standards. GrubHub, the fast-growing Internet food-delivery company, just took the top three floors at 111 W. Washington.

Ms. Preckwinkle reportedly is interested in a 10-year lease on the space, at $1 million a year or more.

That may be achievable. According to the latest quarterly report by Los Angeles-based CBRE, the average asking rent for Class A office buildings in downtown Chicago was $37.98 per square. To get $1 million, the county would have to net $25 per square foot.

The county also has commissioned a U.S. Equities study of its overall real estate needs. That report is due back next year.

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