EDGEWATER — More than 22,500 square feet of Chicago history are for rent at 5960 N. Broadway.
“It’s beautiful space,” said Joe Padorr, a leasing agent for Seneca Real Estate Advisors, which is handling its leasing. “For the right user, it’s really the only thing in the area like it.”
The Gothic Venetian-style building, designed by Chicago architect Richard Bernard Kurzon, was originally constructed as an upscale Chrysler showroom to be part of North Broadway’s “Auto Row” in 1925-26.
Designated as a historic landmark by the City Council’s Commission on Chicago Landmarks on April 5, 2012, the structure houses seemingly endless channels of hallways and rooms that make the property both a dream storefront and challenge to rent out.
He is seeking in the "mid-$20s" per square foot to lease it, he said.
Part of the problem, Padorr says, is the paradox of challenge a landmark property in an area experiencing a boom in commercial development.
Empty since July when MB Financial moved down the block, Padorr says a few national chains “are reviewing it,” most recently with a mattress store declining to take the space.
Now, five months later, the vacant space awaits a niche tenant.
A Historical Challenge
Padorr says one of the biggest barriers to convincing investors is the need to conserve some of the building’s historical decorative nuances as ordered by the city.
“There are limitations as to what can be done,” Padorr said. “For someone who’s looking for high-Euro design, this is probably the wrong space for them.”
Some of the details that must stay in-tact include an expansive 20-foot coffered gold-leaf ceiling, lead glass arched windows and antique metal chandeliers.
Other issues, such as the desire for a single-user to inhabit the building’s massive square footage, stark shortage of parking to service only 20 to 25 cars and the potential need to remove several 1,000-pound fire-proof cabinets from the structure’s vault make Padorr’s job uniquely difficult.
For 31 years until 2010, the bank was the home of Broadway Bank, which was owned by former state treasurer Alexis Giannoulis and his family before it failed. It later was home to MB Financial. A new tenant would need to dismantle — or find a use for — an entire room full of safety deposit boxes.
“These are all empty here,” Padorr said. “I’ve looked.”
“Critical Piece” for Neighborhood
Yet neither Padorr nor Katrina Balog, executive director of the Edgewater Chamber of Commerce, appeared deterred when faced with the task of finding new business for the building. Padorr cites perks like high-volume traffic on Broadway, significant visibility through a sea of windows, its proximity to Whole Foods and potential to be “reconfigured” in new ways as benefits to tenants.
Balog said she agrees with Padorr in regards to the building’s difficulty in leasing, but says a long-term tenant would be the missing key to a potentially thriving intersection at Broadway and Elmdale. A single, long-term tenant she says, is essential for the area’s success.
“That piece is pretty critical,” Balog said. “We would love to see a use there that would generate activity on that particular intersection.”
But if there was ever a time to invest in a historical property, Padorr says it’s now.
“It’s just a natural progression,” he says. “When the economy was bad a four years ago you would have never seen this because it just wasn’t on anyone’s radar and let’s face it, no one could get financing.”
What’s more, he said, is Edgewater’s “significantly strong demographics” like a mix of ages, nationalities, levels of income and an increase in students enrolled at Loyola.
“Edgewater seems to be becoming a much hotter retail destination,” Padorr said.
On Thursday the Edgewater Chamber used the building to host a holiday mixer for the community, a move Balog says was purposeful.
“That was a strategic decision about what would be an opportunity for us to showcase that building,” she said. “And bring people in, and give it exposure and bring some attention to that space.”
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