City Colleges of Chicago wants to sell its headquarters building across the street from Willis Tower and move office workers to campuses in Englewood and Bronzeville.
A sale would allow City Colleges to capitalize on a strong downtown Chicago commercial real estate market, bringing in a one-time cash windfall to the community college system.
The 14-story building, completed in 1904, is on West Jackson Boulevard, across the street from the city’s tallest building, the 110-story former Sears Tower. The approximately 185,000-square-foot City Colleges building is only 33 percent occupied. The system has about 400 workers in the building.
"Our headquarters is a prime Loop property, just across from Willis Tower and the financial district, and we expect it to be highly attractive to buyers," Chancellor Juan Salgado said in a news release. "Selling this underutilized asset allows us to invest more in our colleges, in our communities, and bring our staff closer to students."
The system declined to estimate the building’s value.
Salgado in March assumed leadership of City Colleges, named to the post by Mayor Rahm Emanuel to replace Cheryl Hyman. Hyman stepped down after receiving a no-confidence vote from the system’s faculty. The system has about 90,000 students at seven colleges and five satellite locations.
Within the next month, the system plans to hire a broker to seek a buyer for the Jackson Boulevard building.
The planned sale comes at a time when large sums are being invested in nearby real estate, including Blackstone Group’s $500 million addition to the base of Willis Tower. Another New York-based investor, 601W Cos., has begun a $500 million redevelopment of the old main post office into modern offices and retail.
Also in the area, a venture led by Chicago-based Riverside Investment & Development plans a more than $1 billion redevelopment of Union Station.
In another trend that could work in City Colleges’ favor, many vintage office buildings have been acquired by developers and either upgraded or converted into new uses, such as boutique hotels or apartments.
If it finds a buyer for its headquarters, the system said it will move staff to the Kennedy-King College campus in Englewood and Dawson Technical Institute in Bronzeville. Some staff will move to new office space in the central business district that has yet to be chosen.
The city’s community college system isn’t the first educator looking to cash in on real estate it no longer needs.
Roosevelt University in May said it wants to sell a Michigan Avenue property for more than $20 million.
In 2014, Chicago Public Schools sold its headquarters on Clark Street for $28 million and moved to leased space on Dearborn Street.