The Blue Flight for the ULI Chicago Product Council met on April 14th at 300 S. Wacker for the CPC’s second meeting this year. Blue Flight Chair Jim Smith with Kensington Realty Advisors introduced the day, asking council members to consider ‘why you’re here today and what do you expect to get out of the day’. To kick-off the energy in the room, Christy Lockridge and Mary Dwyer, both with Prudential Mortgage Capital Company, led a speed-networking session.
Jason Ross with Cohen Financial moderated a panel discussion on current debt market conditions and volatility. Speakers brought a diverse set of banking and lender perspectives to the conversation and included: Christy Lockridge with Prudential Mortgage Capital Company, Austin Mautz with BMO Harris, and Chris Pilat with Citigroup. Among other issues, the discussion focused on the anticipated regulatory factors that will drive banking in the immediate future, including HVCRE exposure, risk and retention regulations, and the Wall of Maturities.
A recurring favorite, Know Your Council Members, was next on the docket. Steve Qualkinbush with Q2 spoke about those external forces that impact most all of us in our project work – cultural, governmental, physical, and market – within the context of building branch banks, a market experiencing incredible flux. Patrick Russo with Lincoln Property Company presented two sites for which Lincoln’s strategy was repositioning and leasing-up – one led by the firm’s advisory side, a Class A office building in Austin, TX, and the other led by their local regional asset management side, a mixed-use office and retail development in Oakbrook.
Next up was a panel on the Metra Typology Study, coordinated by Molly Ekerdt with Preservation of Affordable Housing, Inc. Todd Vanadilok and Brittany Bagent, both with Teska Associates, the urban planning firm who led the study, moderated the panel and gave an overview of the study itself, which was intended to evaluate Metra areas and create safe and efficient access to stations throughout the City. David Kralik with Metra gave an overview of its structure and involvement in planning studies and development efforts of those areas surrounding Metra stations. Zev Salomon with Ranquist Development Group and Jim Poole, the Chief of Staff for 47th Ward Alderman Ameya Pawar, brought perspectives from two different areas surrounding Metra stations, Grayland and Ravenswood respectively.
Following a networking lunch, members of the council reconvened for a presentation on the planning, execution, and current status of the office redevelopment at 150 North Riverside, a 53-story, 1.2M SF building with a unique, seemingly counterintuitive structural shape. John O’Donnell and Anthony Scacco of Riverside Investment and Development presented the project. While the site had a number of advantages, the team had its share of challenges, including entitlements, limited construction hours, and the shear feasibility of development on the site. Anthony described the project as requiring ‘essentially a city infrastructure project to build a building’.
Later in the afternoon, the group took a tour of the Reid Murdoch building, highlighting the unique building history and challenges of adaptive reuse projects and trends in the River North market. Robert Lopatin and Robert Zimmerman of Friedman Properties led the tour, the highlight of which was the Whirlpool Showroom. A space used for training and executive events, it was completed in 2010 and takes advantage of the unique features of the building’s original clock tower.
The day concluded with a tour and the story of 111 W. Wacker, the site of the stalled Shangri-La Hotel development that was converted into a luxury rental apartment property and sold to an institutional investor. Nick Anderson with Related Midwest, Will Beam with Heitman, and MJ Zaring with CBRE, presented this now infamous story, providing context to the challenges faced over the course of the 15-year project, not the least of which were the structural acrobatics of building on top of a partially-completed construction project. This 504-unit, Class A, luxury rental building is now one of the defining features of Chicago’s riverfront.
The content for the day was tremendous and offered a diverse mix of subject matter – from community planning to the banking climate to real estate development and adaptive reuse. Throughout the day ‘I need to talk to you later’ could commonly be heard, underscoring the true value of this type of forum that the Chicago Product Council experience offers.
Authored by Meghan Webster, Gensler and CPC Blue Flight Member