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Chicago’s Tech Giants Flip The Script With Developers

311 West Monroe St. in Chicago

When tech companies from the coasts are looking to expand, Chicago is often at the top of their lists. Companies in the tech sector now lease 13.5M SF of office space in the city's central business district. But as Chicago climbs the ranks of the top tech markets in North America, the way developers build projects and plan for tech tenants must evolve to maintain this momentum.

Tech companies are not just disrupting their own industries, they are revolutionizing real estate strategies. Increasingly, they are taking the lead by dictating their needs to developers, shaping the way their future offices are planned, designed and delivered to market. 

“The traditional narrative of site selection has gone out the window," WiredScore head of Chicago Christine Torres said. "The tech revolution has drastically transformed Chicago's tenancy, and developers need to offer more than just great location and competitive rental rates." 

Tech companies are looking for connected spaces where their teams can be as productive as possible. For many developers, delivering reliable in-building mobile coverage and best-in-class digital connectivity is a challenge. But for tech companies, digital connectivity is a mission-critical resource. Tenants are finding that they won’t receive the competitive advantages that come with these amenities unless they take the lead and push for the amenities themselves.

“Tenants' technology needs have surpassed developers' ability to predict them," Torres said. "Companies fully understand their own needs in terms of amenities and technology, and are demanding these factors. Technology is critical to how these companies operate, and tenants are no longer willing to compromise."

Neighborhoods like Fulton Market and the West Loop have laid the groundwork for tech companies to dictate the amenities they need. Empty warehouses give companies a blank canvas to explore what is possible in today’s office spaces. Creative loft-style spaces have attracted the attention of smaller tech companies and inspired developments nearby and even in the more staid Chicago markets like the Loop. In an increasingly competitive market, Chicago’s leading owners and developers are stepping up to the challenge and delivering tech-centric spaces that fuel productivity and innovation.

The John Buck Co.'s 151 North Franklin earned Wired Platinum certification from WiredScore

When Google was designing its Midwest headquarters in Fulton Market, developer Sterling Bay worked with the company to turn a cold-storage warehouse into a loft space that could accommodate its connectivity needs. Now, other companies are seeking office space with similar connectivity in more central locations. Sterling Bay’s 311 West Monroe in the Loop is now pursuing Wired Certification based on the needs of its newest tenants, including meeting-space concept Convene.

Established property developers like Trammell Crow and Murphy Development Group are pursuing Wired Certification for their forthcoming buildings in Fulton Market, Torres said. 

Facebook's and Salesforce’s newest Midwest homes are also indicative of the search for productivity. Facebook took over 265K SF at 151 North Franklin — the tower, which is Wired Certified Platinum, was the sole U.S. nominee in the Intelligent Building category at the 2018 Digie Awards, which recognize connected and high-performance building concepts from around the world.

The Salesforce Tower Chicago at Wolf Point will feature 500K SF for the San Francisco software giant’s employees. With Salesforce as an anchor tenant at Wolf Point, developer Hines has high hopes to fill the remaining floors with similarly discerning tenants looking for best-in-class connectivity and in-building technology.

“If you look at some of the most notable transactions over the last year, all these large companies are prioritizing technology," Torres said. "Facebook, Salesforce, Coca-Cola or Bank of America at 110 North Wacker are showing that connectivity is no longer a 'tenant responsibility.' Developers will need to actively showcase how tech-forward a project is to remain relevant in today's market."

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