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Chicago Office Market Has Second-Best Q2 in 5 Years

Executive Summary:

The Chicago office market is having a fruitful first half of the year, with the combined sales volume in Q1 and Q2 already surpassing last year’s overall performance, and totaling roughly $3.3 billion through June. According to data from Yardi Matrix, the dollar volume in the second quarter was $1.84 billion, with 7.1 million square feet of office space changing hands across 15 transactions in Chicago, Naperville, Skokie, Rosemont, Evanston, Bolingbrook and Schaumburg.

After a 20% decrease compared to the first quarter, the average price for Windy City office assets ended the month of June at $206 per square foot, the second-best Q2 value since 2014. For the past five years, the Chicago office market has profited from an influx of new tenants, from the suburbs as well as from outside the city, and the vigorous development pipeline―scheduled to add roughly $1.1 million square feet of new office space by the end of the year―bears witness to that fact. Read on to get an overview of Chicago’s office sales activity in the second quarter of 2018.

Q2 Office Sales Volume Sees Massive Y-o-Y Growth Spurt

The Chicago office sales volume in the second quarter totalled $1.84 billion, marking a staggering 772% year-over-year spike. However, the modest $211 million dollar volume recorded in Q2 2017 was an outlier in terms of the average value of this metric since 2014. Notwithstanding, the market still saw a 41% increase in sales volume when compared to the five-year average. Roughly 7.1 million square feet of office space traded across 15 transactions, making this the second-best Q2 in five years, just behind the record-breaking $2.54 billion in sales volume in 2015.

Q2 Marks Second-Best Price in 5 Years, at $206 per Square Foot

The average price for office assets trading in Chicago dipped 20% compared to the previous quarter, closing Q2 at $206 per square foot. The current average signals an 8% year-over-year decrease, compared to the $190 price per square foot in Q2 2017. This past quarter also saw the second-best Q2 price value in five years, surpassed only by Q2 2015, when the average price reached $276 per square foot.

$680M Sale of Prudential Plaza Becomes Largest Office Deal since 2015

There were 15 major office sales to close on the Chicago office market in Q2, totaling $1.84 billion. No less than seven of these took place in April, making it the most active month of the quarter. While in Q1, the 5 largest office deals consisted exclusively of office properties in Chicago, office assets located in Naperville and Schaumburg made their way onto the list in the second quarter. The Chicago Loop submarket was home to two of the largest deals in Q2, and it accounted for more than 53% of the total quarterly volume.

In what has become Chicago’s largest office sale since 2015, Sterling Bay forked over $680 million for One & Two Prudential Plaza. The transaction is only outpriced by the 2015 sales of the iconic Willis Tower, for a record-breaking $1.3 billion, and of Aon Center, which sold for $712 million.

The two-building, 2.2 million-square-foot complex is Sterling Bay’s most significant investment to date, exceeding the company’s recent record in Q1 2018, when it dished out $510 million to acquire Groupon’s headquarters at 600 W. Chicago Ave. The Chicago-based developer was aided in its purchase of One & Two Prudential Plaza by its joint venture partner, China’s Wanxiang America Corp. The partnership also assumed a $415 million senior loan tied to the office buildings at 130 East Randolph Street and 180 North Stetson Avenue. The property is currently 80% leased, counting software-maker Textura, Wilson Sporting Goods, public relations company Cision and law firm Clark Hill among its tenants.

175 West Jackson (Yardi Matrix)

Another top deal this Q2 involved the sale of the 22-story office building at 175 West Jackson. This century-old office tower designed by famous architect Daniel H. Burnham was picked up by Toronto-based Brookfield Properties for $306 million or $218 per square foot in April.

The property―previously owned by New York-based Extell Development and Strategic Investment Property Fund, an entity controlled by Switzerland’s Spitzer family―has been grappling with a declining occupancy rate, despite a $100 million renovation effort. In 2013, the 1.5-million-square-foot office building was 92% leased, dropping to 83% in 2017, and currently resting at 67%, well below Downtown occupancy averages. The property has massive 68,000-square-foot floorplates, and includes 55,000 square feet of retail space, a rooftop deck, a 250-space underground parking garage and a fitness center.

1.1MSF Of New Office Space in 2018 Pipeline

There were only two projects that came online in Q2, namely the 596,000-square-foot McDonald’s Corporate Headquarters in the West Loop and the 807,355-square-foot 151 North Franklin.

McDonald’s nine-story office building rests on the site of Oprah Winfrey’s former Harpo Studios television campus, which was bought by developer Sterling Bay in 2014 for $32 million. Located at 110 North Carpenter Street and set to host about 2,000 of McDonald’s employees, the property includes 48,000 square feet of retail space, outdoor space on the roof and a tech bar, modelled after Apple’s genius bar. San Francisco-based Gensler was tapped to design the office building, with Studio O+A and IA Interior Architects working on the interior design.

The Chicago office pipeline is bound to pick up the pace in the following months, with five projects scheduled for completion by the end of the year that will add 1.1 million square feet of new office space to the market. The 438,184-square-foot 625 West Adams Street in the West Loop is the largest project currently in development. The office tower was designed by Martin Wolf of Solomon Cordewell Buenz and is owned by a joint venture between White Oak Realty Partners, Vanderbilt Partners, CA Office and USAA Real Estate Co. The 20-story building will include a 1,000-person auditorium, a 400-car parking garage, a multilevel lobby, and three outdoor terraces.



We used detailed Yardi Matrix data to analyze all office transactions with price tags equal to or exceeding $5 million to close in Chicago during the second quarter of 2018 (April through June). Our analysis, based on data recorded up until June 26th, 2018, includes completed buildings equal to or larger than 50,000 square feet that changed owners during Q2. In the case of mixed-use assets, only properties featuring over 50% office space were included. We counted portfolio deals as single transactions and excluded distressed sales altogether. Some sale prices were calculated based on a tax-transfer formula.

To make sure the trends and comparisons presented in our analysis are valid, we excluded portfolio, partial interest and ground lease deals from our calculation of the average price per square foot.

While every effort was made to ensure the timeliness and accuracy of the information presented in this report, the information is provided “as is” and neither CommercialCafe nor Yardi Matrix can guarantee that the information provided is complete.

Property images courtesy of Yardi Matrix.

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