East Loop landmark with troubled past hits market

Pittsfield Building for sale after tumultuous five years for owner

The Pittsfield Building (J. Crocker/Attribution/Wikimedia Commons)
The Pittsfield Building (J. Crocker/Attribution/Wikimedia Commons)

A downtown Chicago landmark, the city’s tallest when it opened almost a century ago, is on the market after a tumultuous history that could complicate the sale.

CBRE is seeking buyers for the Pittsfield Building, a 38-story former office tower at 55 East Washington St., Crain’s reported. Completed in 1927, the hybrid Gothic and art deco building has views of a park and lakefront and houses apartments as well as vacant raw space.

“With the prime location in Chicago’s East Loop adjacent to Millennium Park, there are endless possibilities for repositioning the assets assuming a successful zoning change,” CBRE said in an email marketing the property.

The building is controlled by Chicago landlord Marc Realty, who owns apartments on the 13th through 21st floors that aren’t part of the sale, and Toronto-based businessman Xiao Hua “Edward” Gong, who owns the rest.

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Months after Gong purchased his portion for $20.8 million in a 2017 bankruptcy auction, authorities in Canada charged him with criminal securities fraud. Prosecutors froze his assets and obtained a restraining order, halting any redevelopment. The city also filed a lawsuit over the building’s deterioration and installed a receiver to oversee the property, leading to a court battle.

Gong’s company ultimately pleaded guilty to operating a pyramid scheme in February 2021, after which Canadian prosecutors allowed him to reassume control of the building. The receiver, Courtney Jones, has filed a foreclosure suit, alleging $5 million in unpaid bills.

A plan to develop part of the building into a hotel was scuttled after the City Council approved a zoning change in 2016 that effectively banned hotel uses for the property.

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Brian Scheinblum and the Pittsfield Building (Credit: LinkedIn)
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[Crain’s] – Rachel Herzog