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CHICAGO-Easter Seals, headquartered here, has signed a lease to relocate its corporate headquarters to the 24th floor of the Sears Tower, 233 S. Wacker Dr. The term of the lease is 12 years. The initial lease commitment is for at least 25,401 sf with the option to expand. Easter Seals was represented in the lease transaction by ProTen Realty Group. John Dempsey, with CB Richard Ellis, represented building ownership.

The nonprofit organization, which as been in existence for more than 85 years, provides services to people with developmental, physical and mental disabilities. The group’s headquarters has been located for the past 14 years at 230 W. Monroe St., where it leases about 23,000 sf, says Donald Jackson, chief operating officer of the organization. Easter Seals will move into the Sears Tower by February 2009.

Easter Seals has committed to at least 25,000 sf but “it is highly likely that it will be a little bit more than that,” he says. The space is currently being designed by locally based Area Design Ltd. The Sears Tower has 50,000-sf floor plates for the first 49 stories of the 110-story tower and “that enables more expansion room as we continue to grow,” Jackson says. “We are just bursting at the seams right now,” he adds. Easter Seals would not have been able to expand at its current location without being located on more than one floor, Jackson says. Easter Seals also chose the Sears Tower for its new location because of the proximity to Metra train stations and other forms of public transportation, and because of its amenities such as restaurants and a post office in the building. “We were forever running over to that post office as it was,” he says.

The organization currently has about 100 employees and expects that number to increase. The group’s revenue has increased from about $280 million 15 years ago to more than $1 billion last year. “We have really held down our corporate office size as we have grown exponentially,” he says. “But, I think it is going to be hard to continue to hold that corporate office growth back with the pressures we have on us to provide support to the services in the field.”

The Sears Tower currently has an 80.2% occupancy rate, says John Huston, EVP with Skokie-based American Landmark Properties. “We have made almost 380,000 sf in leases since Jan. 1, 2006,” he says. The tower has signed leases for three new restaurants in the past 12 months and plans to sign leases for an additional three restaurants in the next year, one of which “will definitely be a destination restaurant in the West Loop area, if not the entire Loop,” he says. Major tenants in the building include Ernst & Young, Chubb, law firm Sonnenschein Nath & Rosenthal LLP, law firm Schiff Hardin & Waite, Bank of America and law firm Latham Watkins. Citigroup, private-equity firm GTCR Golder Rauner LLC and consulting firm Bain & Co. have announced their intentions to leave the Sears Tower, but their leases will not be up for two to three years so it does not affect the current occupancy rate, Huston says. The asking lease rate is from the “mid-teens to the mid-20′s,” Huston says.

The 3.8-million-sf Sears Tower includes office and retail space, a health club, conference facilities, a restaurant, parking space and antenna and broadcasting facilities. The tower is owned by 233 S. Wacker LLC, which includes American Landmark Properties, the Chetrit Group and the Moinian Group.

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