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As Companies Decamp for the City, Suburban Office Parks Struggle

Mirroring a nationwide trend, office parks in suburban Chicago are emptying out as companies increasingly favor urban locations. As a result, developers and local officials are having to think creatively about possibilities for office park reuse.
August 13, 2012, 10am PDT | Jonathan Nettler | @nettsj
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When Motorola Mobility announced recently that it would be trading in its home in Libertyville for prime space in Chicago's Merchandise Mart, it joined BP Amoco, United Airlines, and Sara Lee in helping to reverse the corporate exodus from Chicago, and cities across America, that marked the rise of the suburbs in the decades following World War II.

For reporter David Roeder, Motorola's move is, "another example of how the isolated, splendidly landscaped corporate base in the suburbs has fallen out of favor." With office space in the suburbs facing a "hard sell" since the start of the financial crisis, "these compounds by and large must look to the private market for a new reason to exist."

"Daniel Miranda, president of HSA Commercial Real Estate, said possibilities include turning some campuses into retail centers, perhaps outlet malls, or converting them for medical or educational uses. Some suburbs, Miranda said, may wish to convert the campuses into a carefully planned 'mini-town.'"

"Many analysts have said a desire to recruit younger, tech-savvy workers drives the job shift to downtown," notes Roeder. "Tony Smaniotto, senior managing director at Studley Inc., said cost control is another factor."

Some analysts however, like Art Burrows, senior vice president at NAI Hiffman, are skeptical of how long this trend will continue. He believes, "the suburbs will come back when there's a clear price advantage and housing improves."


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Published on Wednesday, August 8, 2012 in Chicago Sun-Times
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