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To Keep Talent In Chicago’s Suburbs, Office Landlords Improve The Tenant Experience

A rendering of the lobby at 6300 River Road.

In Chicago, major companies like Kraft, Heinz and McDonald's have migrated to the city’s central business districts. But as these major tenants vacate the suburbs, new commercial tenants have taken their place and remained at status quo. Suburban office vacancy was at 23% in Q2, JLL reported.

Startups are among the companies filling vacant suburban office space. Drawn to more affordable office space, businesses like Pampered Chef and have set up shop in neighborhoods like Addison and Evanston.

But as demand for suburban office space rises, landlords must upgrade their spaces to retain these companies. Across the U.S., suburban office centers are woefully outdated. Many of the suburban campuses in Chicago were built in the 1970s and 1980s in isolated locations and without the infrastructure needed to support the heavy internet use required by so many of today’s businesses. The suburbs, by design, segregated places for living from where people shopped or worked, and required cars to connect these locations.

Now, employees operate in a 24/7 economy where these daily activities are integrated. This shift has required different types of spaces, like fitness centers, apartments and grocery stores, to exist in the same place. Inside offices, technology like cellphones and telecommunications software have replaced landlines, and WiFi has replaced Ethernet cables. Employees want to be able to move about the space freely with laptops and other connected devices, and they require reliable internet to do so.

To compete with office space in cities, landlords will have to bring these amenities and digital infrastructure to the suburbs in a way that not only fosters a pleasant environment but also improves how companies do business.

“When you look at high-performing suburban assets, you'll see an emphasis on elevating the tenant experience,” WiredScore Head of Chicago Christine Torres said. “This goes beyond delivering a standard set of amenities and delivering an environment that elevates productivity, and for buildings built in the 1990s, 1980s or earlier, implementing modern technology is going to be a key differentiator in remaining competitive from a leasing perspective.”

Combining amenities with modern technology to attract tenants was at the core of Farpoint Development’s acquisition of 6300 River Road in Rosemont, Illinois. The company wanted to bring a cool factor to the suburban office market and saw potential to future-proof the midcentury building.

“We ventured into the suburban market finding a real need for inspired office space,” Farpoint Development principal Regina Stilp said. “We found a great opportunity with 6300 River Road.”

Chicago skyline

"We reached out to WiredScore to rate the connectivity of the building to ensure that we would be able to deliver a true Class-A experience to our future tenants," Stilp said. "They were very helpful in identifying our strengths and where we have the opportunity to enhance building services."

Farpoint is committed to achieving Wired Certification at 6300 River Road, which signals to tenants that the space is equipped to meet the digital connectivity needs of creative and tech companies.

In addition to reliable digital connectivity, the project included a complete renovation of the building’s windows and lobby, as well as the installation of a café, fitness center and golf simulator. It is the only office building in Chicago’s suburbs to offer a Zen garden and yoga room. These amenities aim to bridge the gap between urban and suburban office spaces, creating a Downtown Chicago or West Loop feel in Rosemont.

Mimicking downtown mixed-use development has become a cornerstone of urban office redevelopment. At Motorola Solutions’ former Schaumburg, Illinois, campus, UrbanStreet Group is transforming the vacant 225-acre site into a multiuse site similar to a CBD. The vision for the campus includes a mix of dense multifamily and office buildings, along with entertainment and hospitality spaces.

While public transportation in suburban spaces continues to pose an issue for drawing talent out of the cities, campuses like those in Schaumburg show a shift toward suburban development that favors mixed-use. Less visible is the increased emphasis on enhancing digital infrastructure to support the needs of current and future tenants.

"We believe strongly in bringing our tenants the latest technology they need to make their lives and jobs easier,” Golub & Co. Senior Vice President of Portfolio Management Steve Sise said. “We’ve implemented industry-leading technology practices across our office portfolio in Chicago and the suburbs, and we’re working with WiredScore to ensure that we remain at the forefront of digital connectivity and innovations.”

Golub recently committed to achieving Wired Certification at International Tower located in the O'Hare submarket. 

Despite trends toward urbanization, Americans are more likely to live in the suburbs today than they were in 2000, Bloomberg reported. That number is growing as millennials become homeowners, start families and move back to the suburbs. They are going to need amenitized, well-connected office space.

This feature was produced in collaboration between Bisnow Branded Content and WiredScore. Bisnow news staff was not involved in the production of this content.