A Look At Blue Star Properties' $100M Adaptive Reuse Of 125 S Clark
Daniel Burnham's architectural designs from Chicago's First School of Architecture are an essential part of downtown's DNA, and many of the buildings are thriving today as adaptive reuse projects. We got to tour the latest facelift of a Burnham-designed building: The National at 125 S Clark St.
Burnham designed the 508k SF building for the Commercial National Bank of Chicago, which had it built in 1907. Over the decades, it was home to ComEd and later Chicago Public Schools, which used it for its HQ until 2014, when Blue Star Properties bought the building in a $28M deal. The firm is spending an additional $100M to restore the building and add a 50k SF food court, featuring some of Chicago's most popular chef-driven fast-casual restaurants.
Blue Star founder Craig Golden is partnering with Bruce Finkelman in a hospitality company called 16" on Center. That group is the brains and brawn behind red-hot restaurant and nightlife concepts like Thalia Hall and Dusek's in Pilsen, Longman & Eagle in Logan Square, The Promontory in Hyde Park, Moneygun and Saint Lou's Assembly in the West Loop, and SPACE in Evanston. Craig believes he can capture tenants from Chicago's growing tech community for The National by adapting it to meet the needs of workers and residents of the Central Loop. His instincts have proven correct. Blue Star signed WeWork to a 112k SF lease at The National, the city's largest lease for a co-working space. The National will also serve as HQ for retailer Paper Source. Craig is targeting office rents between $34 and $40/SF.
We snapped Craig in the middle of The National's upcoming food court. The building has entrances on Clark, LaSalle and Adams streets, all feeding directly into the food court. Craig says the offerings inside will transition from coffee and breakfast during the day to cocktails and dinner at night. The tiles on the food court's columns were custom ordered by a company called Remix, which hand fires them. Craig and Bruce say these tiles are intended to closely match Daniel Burnham's designs.
One of the restaurants opening at The National is Danke, a charcuterie concept from the team behind Table, Donkey & Stick in Logan Square. Here is the outline of Danke's sit-down bar. Craig and Bruce say they want to bring a neighborhood feel to The National and shine a spotlight on some of the most talented chefs working across the city and near suburbs.
Here is the team behind Union Pizzeria and SPACE in Evanston: partners Steve Schwartz, Heather Behm and partner/chef Vince DeBattista. They're opening Union Squared in The National, which will serve pizza inspired by Buddy's, a popular Detroit pizzeria specializing in a softer version on Sicilian-style pizza. Heather says this will be unlike any pizzeria in Chicago.
Here is the community room on The National's sixth floor, which will lead out to a rooftop deck. It's available for use by the building's tenants and may also be rented for private events. Note the fireplace on the left; this was found in one of the old ComEd offices and restored.
Snapped: The National's upcoming rooftop deck. Craig says this will eventually be filled with green space and planters, and provide protection from high winds since the building rises above it on three sides. A steel wall will rise along the far wall and angle to hide the HVAC units above.
Here, Craig and Bruce show The National's basement bank vault, which will become another private event space. Bruce says Commercial National Bank had a drop floor installed in front of the vault to prevent heists. Craig is turning the levers to drop the floor in this photo.