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John Hancock Center on North Michigan Avenue
The potential legal donnybrook over control of the John Hancock Center on North Michigan Avenue experienced another twist recently, when about $400M in real estate-bubble era loans due last week and no payments were forthcoming from Golub & Co and the Goldman Sachs Group's Whitehall fund , the building's owners. Investors holding about $182M of the debt have tapped Atlanta-based TriMont Real Estate Advisors to act as a special servicer, to decide whether to foreclose on the property or negotiate a restructured debt. As Bisnow reported recently, it still isn't clear yet what the other Hancock debt holders, which include the likes of Blackstone Group, NorthStar Realty Finance and the John Buck Co, will do to pursue their interests. To complicate matters, Goldman is no slacker when it comes to legal wrangling, so the fight could take years, with the only certain outcome being the enrichment of the attorneys involved.
HSA Commercial Properties Bob Smietana, Dan Miranda, and Jack Shaffer
John Hancock's status as a fixture on the Chicago skyline is a sure thing, and so is the draw of the 95th-story observatory as a tourist attraction. But the building's office space—about 70% occupied—is a little more problematic, according to HSA Commercial Properties prez and downtown office expert Dan Miranda (center, with CEO Bob Smietana and chairman and co-founder Jack Shaffer). The building's far North Michigan Avenue location, aging technology, and layout all pose challenges in competing with newer Class-A Loop locations. Even if the Chicago office market recovers (no sure thing), the building will have cut some sweet deals to get that occupancy up, Dan tells us.
Ben Azulay, senior managing director in the Chicago office of Bradford Allen
Bradford Allen senior managing director Ben Azulay, a go-to guy when it comes to tenant rep in the area, acknowledges that the location and the floor-plate sizes make Big John a less-than-easy building to lease. Still, he says that one way or another, the owners of the Hancock should be able to squeeze out decent returns for years to come. In a jungle of competing office buildings, getting potential tenants to notice you is critical, and the building ought to have no trouble on that score. Hancock's leasing future might lie in attracting entrepreneurial firms that don't care much about being in the shiny new(ish) towers on LaSalle or in the West Loop, he says. (Hey, that picture back there is waving at us.)