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Behind The Scenes of The Rookery's New Features

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The Rookery Building, Chicago

The Central Loop’s historic office buildings are receiving 21st century upgrades to keep up with the demands of a modern workforce. The latest architectural icon to boost its amenities is the Rookery Building at 209 South LaSalle St. Built by Burnham & Root in 1886, the lobby was remodeled by Frank Lloyd Wright in 1905, and the building was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1972, designated a Chicago landmark that same year and named a national historic landmark in 1975.

Today, The Rookery is working to combine its timeless architecture with the latest technology and amenities. NGKF assumed exclusive leasing of the building in September and senior managing director Karin Kraai talked with us about the process.

The executive boardroom at the Rookery building, Chicago

Karin says The Rookery is in a different category from other Central Loop repositionings like Blue Star Properties' $100M renovations to The National because the building has been meticulously cared for since former owner Tom Baldwin began renovating the 300k SF building in 1992, and because of the passionate feelings people have for the building. People want to call The Rookery home because of its architectural and design significance.

NGKF is incorporating some of The Rookery’s historic touches into the capital improvements. The historic Burnham & Root library where the 1893 World’s Columbian Exposition was planned is now the building’s executive boardroom (shown). NGKF and building ownership sees this as one example of keeping pace with amenities being added in office assets throughout downtown, without replicating what other buildings are doing.

The new bike room at The Rookery, Chicago

Karin shared details of the recent improvements with Bisnow

  • New restrooms on each floor with five-star hotel grade finishes, white marble floors and countertops, a shoe shine machine in men’s restrooms, and auto faucets and flushers.
  • A bike room (shown) was constructed with men’s and women’s showers to match the restroom renovations, including hotel grade finish, along with lockers.
  • A full-scale elevator modernization program is underway. Two elevator cabs will be put into service with new mechanicals and interior finishes by Dec. 31; the rest will be upgraded in 2017. A modern elevator destination dispatch and visitor system will be implemented with the elevator modification project.
  • An award-winning LED lighting project was completed on the exterior of the entire building for night illumination, after a full façade renovation was executed.
  • Key energy-saving measures were introduced to the LEED Gold certified building as part of its long-term sustainability program. The building recently received the Mayor’s Leadership Circle Award for reducing energy by 24% in three years; exceeding the goal of a 20% reduction over five years set by the city.
  • New spec suites and full-floor open spaces were introduced offering efficient, flexible work environments.
The light court at the Rookery building, Chicago

And other capital improvements are being discussed. Karin says NGKF is exploring coffee service in the lobby, and is working with an architect to envision a different view of the lobby while still keeping with the tradition of Wright’s original work. NGKF cleared a floor to further highlight The Rookery’s light court (pictured), to give tenants a sense of what they can do with that footprint.

The improvements don’t stop there. There are rumblings that Brooks Brothers may launch The Red Fleece Café, a new concept wine bar, on the premises, which will hopefully keep foot traffic flowing to The Rookery after business hours.