Former Chicago Bear launches 1871-styled incubator with insane lease rates

Israel Idonije leased 45K sf at 200 W. Madison, subleasing it to nonprofits on the cheap

Former NFL player Israel Idonije and 200 W. Madison St. (Credit: Getty Images, Google Maps)
Former NFL player Israel Idonije and 200 W. Madison St. (Credit: Getty Images, Google Maps)

A former Chicago Bears player has an unusual deal for nonprofits that are increasingly edged out of the shifting downtown real estate market: sublease space from him.

Israel Idonije, who played for the Bears and other NFL teams over an 11-year career, has inked a lease deal for 45,000 square feet of space at Multi-Employer Property Trust and Bentall GreenOak’s 200 W. Madison St.

Idonije plans to convert the floors to offices, 15 conference rooms and four “work lounges” specifically for nonprofit and philanthropic organizations to rent, according to Crain’s. He’s calling the venture “Impact House,” and it follows a similar model to the digital nonprofit tech incubator 1871 in Merchandise Mart.

Idonije has already subleased all 45,000 square feet to various foundations.

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Though this isn’t the first time the retired NFL player has invested in the Loop area, this is the first time the nonprofit market has been targeted for tenancy. And they really need it.

Because investors and developers are increasingly converting old-school Loop office buildings into Class A office space, nonprofits often find themselves hunting for cheaper — and vanishing — space.

There was a 26 percent drop in Class C space in the Loop area from 2009 to 2019, narrowing the market for nonprofits to find affordable space to lease. Most find spaces at WeWorks.

At Impact House, a committee reviews prospect members before they are approved for the $3,000-per-year lease agreement.

“We can bring in the family foundation that has two people and doesn’t have space,” Idonije told Crain’s. “That group can come in and have amazing, innovative space for a fraction of what they pay if they take down the whole space by themselves.” [Crain’s] — Jacqueline Flynn