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The Franklin in Crain's Business Daily

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The Franklin

New name, $30 million makeover for Franklin Center

One of Chicago's largest office properties is getting a new name and a $30 million makeover as it braces for the loss of two anchor tenants.

The two-tower Franklin Center has been renamed the Franklin and is getting a lighter, more open look.

The changes will include a 30-foot-tall light installation by Leo Villareal, the artist behind “The Bay Lights,” an intricate motion light display on the San Francisco Bay Bridge. The installation, which will hang in the balcony, will have hanging strands of LED lights that can be programmed to create motion displays.

The property owner, a venture of Tishman Speyer Properties, is making the improvements as it prepares to woo new tenants. The Franklin, which totals about 2.5 million square feet, is more than 90 percent leased. But about a fourth of its space is set to be vacated in 2017, when investment firm William Blair and law firm McDermott Will & Emery move to new skyscrapers under construction along the Chicago River.

“We're getting back a large amount of vacancy in 2017, and it gives us the opportunity to re-establish an identity as one of the best properties in Chicago,” said Patrick Kearney, a Tishman Speyer managing director who leads the real estate investment and development firm's Chicago office. “We've got the opportunity to get out ahead of that vacancy.”

Kearney declined to say the cost of the changes, which someone familiar with the building estimated would be about $30 million.


Changes designed by Krueck & Sexton will include limestone floors, LED lighting, an overhaul of the property's four entrances and new exteriors on the ground-floor retail space, Kearney said. The revamp will replace rich, ornate features such as marble floors and brass moldings that were preferred in the 1980s and '90s

The owners have already added Rustle & Roux, a 17,000-square-foot cafeteria with seven food concepts, the R29 tenant lounge and bar and an upgraded fitness center. A renovated conference center will open in June. Work begins this month on the lobby, entrances and exterior, with a projected completion of early 2016, Kearney said.

The West Loop property was developed about a quarter-century ago as some of the highest-quality space in the city. The 60-story tower at 227 W. Monroe St. was completed in 1989, with the 34-story building at 222 W. Adams St. finished in 1992.

William Blair, which leases 368,949 square feet at 222 W. Adams St., is moving to Chicago developer John O'Donnell's tower at 150 N. Riverside Plaza. McDermott, which leases 251,209 square feet at 227 W. Monroe St., is bound for a Hines Interests venture's River Point development at 444 W. Lake St.

Tishman Speyer is seeking new tenants amid the strongest leasing market in years. Downtown office vacancy was 13.3 percent during the first quarter, just above a six-year low to end 2014, according to Los Angeles-based brokerage CBRE. West Loop vacancy was 12.8 percent, third-lowest of six submarkets, down from 13.6 percent a year earlier.