Sterling Bay’s greatest hits of 2018

Buying into the former Hancock Center was the prolific developer’s latest move in a busy year

Sterling Bay's pieces of Chicago’s skyline
Sterling Bay's pieces of Chicago’s skyline

Three decades after Sterling Bay got its start through low-lying office renovations in the city’s outlying neighborhoods, the developer now has its hands on some of the most recognizable pieces of Chicago’s skyline.

The mega-developer’s latest push, first reported Thursday, scooped up 900,000 square feet of office space inside the 100-story supertall at 875 North Michigan Avenue — known to Chicagoans as the John Hancock building — with a $300 million buy.

From expanding Downtown to shaping a new commercial district in the West Loop, here are five of Sterling Bay’s other big moves that have turned heads so far in 2018.

(Credit: Howard Lifshitz via Flickr)

1. Prudential Plaza | $680 million acquisition

Sterling Bay closed the city’s largest office deal in three years when it bought both towers at Prudential Plaza in April, paying $680 million for the combined 2.3-million-square-foot complex. The property’s previous owner, a venture of 601W Companies and Berkley Properties, had inked a series of prominent leases in the towers, including 72,000 square feet for law firm Clark Hill and the relocated offices of the Chicago Tribune.

2. Groupon Headquarters | $510 million acquisition

For two months before Prudential Plaza became the developer’s priciest-ever purchase, that title belonged to Groupon’s River West headquarters at 600 West Chicago Avenue, which Sterling Bay bought in February for $510 million. The new owner vowed to renovate the 1.65-million-square-foot building’s lobby and improve its public access to the north branch of the Chicago River, signaling they would stick around as landlords for the long haul.

Sterling Bay bought the building, which was about 95 percent leased at the time of purchase, from the Sam Zell-led real estate trust Equity Commonwealth.

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3. 333 North Green Street | Permit for a $100 million tower

The developer was cleared earlier this month to start construction on its 19-story Fulton Market office tower, the first of three similar buildings it plans to erect near the corner of Halsted and Kinzie streets. Sterling Bay bought the site, encompassing Coyne College’s former campus and parking lot, for $25 million in 2016.

Together, the three towers are set to bring about 1.7 million square feet of office space into Fulton Market.

4. 113 North May Street | Permit for a $44 million hotel

Sterling Bay is also fresh off its groundbreaking for a 200-key, 14-story hotel, which was first proposed as a 19-story tower before being shortened.

The site is part of the block-sized former home of Oprah Winfrey’s Harpo Studios, which the firm bought in 2014 for $25 million. Last month, developer Vista Property Group bought a two-story office building on the block for about $14 million.

5. Lincoln Yards | ???

Concert promoter Live Nation announced a deal this spring to build as many as five entertainment venues in the 70-acre Lincoln Yards development, set to join a 20,000-seat soccer stadium already being planned on Sterling Bay’s prestige property.

But nearly two years after buying the serpentine riverfront space from A. Finkl & Sons Steel and one year after padding the site with 18 acres from the city’s fleet and facilities department, Sterling Bay has released few other specific plans. That could change next week, when the developer is scheduled to present at a public meeting led by 2nd Ward Alderman Brian Hopkins.