CHICAGO-An expanded parking lot is not what city officials had in mind for 300 W. Washington St. However, the 36,000-sf lot will remain undeveloped, but used to park an additional 205 cars as it is used to connect a neighboring 33,000-sf property at 301 W. Randolph St.

Members of the plan commission recently recommended approval of Henry Crown & Co.’s latest plan for the West Loop property, which was rezoned in 1997 to allow for an office building. Even an environmentally friendly design was not enough to please 42nd Ward Alderman Burton Natarus.

“You promised us a building. Now you’re building a parking lot,” Natarus says. “This is no excuse for the landowner or developer not planning a beautiful building on this site.”

Attorney Jack Guthman responds market conditions make development of an office space unfeasible. In addition to double-digit vacancy rates, the West Loop is seeing its share of new office construction, particularly on nearby Wacker Drive. Also, his client did not have both parcels when an earlier development plan died because an anchor tenant could not be found, Guthman says.

“We’re trying to be good citizens with this,” Guthman adds. “We’d all rather have a building than a parking lot.”

When the market rebounds, Guthman notes Henry Crown & Co. has one of the last remaining development sites in the Loop.

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