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CHICAGO-Quaker Tower’s new owners have cleared up part of an impending vacancy problem, landing a 15-year lease with the American Bar Association for 225,000 sf at the building at 321 N. Clark St., which is being vacated by the namesake tenant. Besides being the second-largest lease deal in the entire market this year, it is the largest involving a professional or not-for-profit organization in more than a decade.

When a joint venture involving Houston-based Hines Interests LP and a US pension fund paid $159 per sf — $133.3 million – for the building just north of the Chicago River in April, the building was 98% occupied. It still is, but Quaker Oats and law firm Gardner Carton Douglas are vacating a combined 640,000 sf of the 840,000-sf River North tower next year.

There still is a gap, however, as the ABA won’t occupy its space until June 2004.

Although terms were not released, Hines had been marketing the space at $24 per sf on a net basis, middle ground for Downtown class A office space. If applied to the ABA space and lease term, that would equate to $81 million.

“Having the American Bar Association as the anchor tenant of 321 N. Clark is a tremendous success for Hines and our investor, particularly so early in our leasing program,” says Houston-based Hines’ vice president, Tom D’Arcy. “We’re thrilled to have such a prominent organization at the tower and look forward to providing a new headquarter location for the ABA.”

The ABA now has 243,000 sf divided between two River East buildings at 750 N. Lake Shore Dr. and 541 N. Fairbanks Ct. The 400,000-member lawyers’ group hired national real estate advisory firm Julien J. Studley, Inc., which formed a team consisting of executive vice president and Midwest branch manager John J. Goodman, executive vice presidents Joe Learner and Richard Schuham, President Jacque Ducharme, assistant director Laurie Condon and associate Dawn Clayton. Now, the construction and relocation process is in the hands of managing director of project management services Rich Dale. D’Arcy was joined at the bargaining table by Ann Tomlinson of Hines.

Cost efficiency, optimal use of space, sufficient technological needs and employee recruitment and retention were the ABA’s top priorities in its search for new space, which involved exploring several build-to-suit opportunities before settling on Quaker Tower.

“The first step to our strategic plan was getting a collective set of goals from the ABA’s executive team and board of directors,” Goodman says. “From there, we sought to marry their vision of the organization going forward with the services that the ABA provides to its membership.”

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