John Buck drops $53M on land for two-tower West Loop office project

Land deal makes way for the 1.5 million-square-foot development

John Buck with rendering of 655 West Madison
John Buck with rendering of 655 West Madison (John Buck Company, Getty)

John Buck Co. is forging ahead with a two-tower West Loop office development with its purchase of land for the project along the Kennedy Expressway.

The prominent Chicago developer paid $53 million for the parking lot at 655 West Madison Street, which the firm has been eyeing for commercial development even as it still requires final city approval, CoStar News reported. The sellers were MR Properties’ Philip Mappa and Chicago-based parking lot operator Park One, whose venture had owned the property since 2003.

Buck’s project was originally meant to be a single, 1.5 million-square foot tower, but John Buck revised the plans last June to be the same amount of space, but across two towers instead of just one. The move allows John Buck to reduce the amount of preleasing needed before beginning construction.

“Our feeling is that the office is here to stay, but it is clear that virtually all users are going to reduce their footprints, and maybe in the neighborhood of 30 percent to 50 percent with remote working becoming en vogue,” Buck previously said. “But there will be a flight to quality.”

Plans call for a 850,000-square-foot, 39-story tower and a 600,000-square-foot 29-story tower on top of a 50,000-square-foot amenity podium with a 1-acre park in between. Phase one of the development will include the taller tower, while a second phase will build the second, shorter tower.

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The towers will be built with energy-efficient designs and new building technology, and Buck has emphasized the site’s proximity to commuter trains, the Loop as well as Fulton Market’s rising retail and office scene.

The purchase reinforces Buck’s belief that Class A office space with luxurious amenities will keep outperforming the broader market, which includes a record-high vacancy rate of more than a fifth downtown office space right now. The highest quality properties, though, have had their vacancy drop over the past year, beating the rest of the market.

“There is simply not enough A-plus product as evidence of the performance of the latest generation of new buildings,” John Buck, the company’s chairman and CEO, told the outlet. “The 655 Madison project will meet this demand and deliver to tenants in 2026.”

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Victoria Pruitt