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What's Going To Happen To Tribune Tower? Developers Weigh In

By David Matthews | September 1, 2016 5:33am
 Tribune Tower, 435 N. Michigan Ave.
Tribune Tower, 435 N. Michigan Ave.
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DNAinfo/David Matthews

CHICAGO — Tribune Tower was built on the promise of newspapers, but its future will be entirely different.

Local developers agree that Los Angeles-based CIM Group has plenty of options for the neo-Gothic landmark on Michigan Avenue it agreed to buy for $240 million.

Like, all the options. 

With a great location, historic architecture, nice views and name recognition, the tower at 435 N. Michigan Ave. "has everything going for it" when it comes to redevelopment, said Gail Lissner, a vice president at Chicago-based real estate consulting firm Appraisal Research Counselors. 

The question is how CIM — which will also acquire a prime development site in the form of a parking lot behind the tower — will piece together its new high-profile project to maximize its potential. 

"Anything but self storage," Lissner said.

Right now, the tower is an office building with some retail. It could very easily be an office/retail/hotel/residential building in the near future, local developers say.

"If you add it all up it's not a one-use play, and that was the key to that site," said developer Steven Fifield of Fifield Cos.

RELATED: Tribune Tower Sold as Developer Plans to 'Repurpose' Iconic Building

Fifield and others believe the tower's distinctive crown would lend itself well to a hotel, given all the tourist traffic below. CIM could also layer in condominiums and rentals — or both — and still fit some retail and office space in the 91-year-old tower, too.

"It's a true mixed use site," said Don Smith of Jupiter Realty, which is building a 45-story apartment tower nearby. 

That would be a familiar task for CIM, which bought what was a nearly vacant Block 37 mall on State Street out of foreclosure in 2012, added new anchor tenants, and topped it with 690 new apartments.

The equally complex opportunity Tribune Tower presents requires a "large player with a big balance sheet," Fifield said. 

But CIM could catch tax breaks if it gets Tribune Tower on the National Register of Historic Places — which gives 20 percent income tax credits — or receives Class L designation from Cook County, which cuts tax assessments on landmarked properties for up to 12 years

Then there's the parking lot, which could accommodate a massive skyscraper.

"Something on scale with Trump International," Fifield said. "It's a lot of work but it'll be exciting to see how it evolves."

The Tribune's future at its namesake tower is unclear. Tribune Media, which split from the paper in 2014 but holds all its real estate, plans to move out beginning next year. Tronc Inc., owner of the Tribune, reportedly told staff it "has no immediate plans" to leave the tower before its lease expires in 2018, but has not said whether it will stay long-term.

Spokeswomen for CIM and Tronc did not return messages seeking comment. 

Both Smith and Fifield, who looked at the Tribune property but didn't bid on it, don't believe any new office space in the tower will suit the Tribune's needs. 

Regardless of its future, people who work near the tower hope its new owner will keep the tower's old charms.

"The important thing is keeping the building intact," Krista Nestor, an interior architect, said.

And others would just like better food in this part of Downtown.

"Over by Ogilvie (Transportation Center) they have fancy chefs do pop-up stuff," Lydia Vincenty, who works nearby, said. 

"We have McDonald's," her colleague, Marie Kudrys, said. 

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