Onni Group nears trio of leasing wins at vintage Loop office tower

Spending $140M to renovate 853K sf building

Onni Group Finalizing Three Leases in Chicago Loop Office Tower
Locke Lord chairman David Taylor and The Bell at 225 West Randolph Street (Locke Lord, 225 Randolph)

Onni Group is on the verge of locking down a trio of leases at a downtown office tower it’s renovating, but that won’t put a dent in Chicago’s record-high vacancy rate. 

The leases, which haven’t been finalized, combine for nearly 140,000 square feet in the 31-story tower at 225 West Randolph Street, Crain’s reported.

If the deals are completed, they would fill roughly 16 percent of the vacant building, while validating Onni’s decision to invest $140 million in overhauling the site. 

The largest of the potential leases involves law firm Locke Lord, which is in advanced talks to lease just under 80,000 square feet across three floors in the 853,000-square-foot tower. Locke Lord would relocate from its longtime home at 111 South Wacker Drive. 

In addition, professional services firm BDO USA is negotiating a roughly 30,000-square-foot lease, with plans to downsize from its 67,000-square-foot space at 330 North Wabash Avenue. 

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Financial services firm Northwestern Mutual is negotiating a similar deal for about 30,000 square feet, slashing its Chicago footprint by 20,000 square feet in a move from 1 North Wacker Drive. 

Despite the possibility of all the deals falling through, these lease discussions underscore a growing interest in the revitalization of older buildings in prime locations, offering opportunities for developers and tenants.

The Randolph Street tower, known as The Bell after its rebranding, has garnered significant interest from prospective tenants, buoyed by its competitive rental rates facilitated by a Class L designation from Cook County. This designation significantly reduces property taxes for developers undertaking major renovations of historic buildings, allowing landlords to offer attractive rental rates to tenants.

Furthermore, Onni Group is enhancing the appeal of the building by transforming the top three floors into amenity space, including an indoor-outdoor rooftop deck, catering to the evolving needs of companies in light of the remote-work era. 

The potential relocations of Locke Lord and Northwestern Mutual would represent rare shifts away from Wacker Drive to older buildings closer to the heart of the Loop. The Bell redevelopment, alongside other ongoing renovation projects in the area, hint at a potential recovery for downtown’s office market. 

—Quinn Donoghue 

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