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CHICAGO-Baker & McKenzie LLP has signed a letter of intent and is in negotiations to lease space at 444 W. Lake St., here. A joint venture between Hines, headquartered in Houston, and Chicago food service entrepreneur Larry Levy is developing the planned 1.1-million-sf office tower, called River Point. The law firm is in negotiations to lease between 250,000 sf and 300,000 sf at River Point starting in 2012, confirms Greg Van Schaack, SVP at Hines regional office here. The cost for the project is nearly $500 million, Van Schaack estimated for GlobeSt.com in March.

Baker & McKenzie currently leases approximately 240,000 sf at One Prudential Plaza, 130 E. Randolph St. The firm’s lease will expire in November 2012. The firm hired Jones Lang LaSalle and architectural firm Solomon Cordwell Buenz early last year to draft an office strategic plan, as previously reported by GlobeSt.com.

William Blair, which has been located at 222 W. Adams St., since 1994, signed a lease in March to be the anchor tenant in the building, as previously reported by GlobeSt.com. The firm will occupy three-and-a-half floors of the low-rise portion of the 52-story building and 10 high-rise floors. The building is currently 65% pre-leased, Van Schaack tells GlobeSt.com. The asking lease rate for office space in the building is approximately $50 per sf gross, he says.

The building will also have approximately 15,000 sf of retail and restaurant space. Construction is expected to begin this fall and be completed in June 2011. The tower was designed by Pickard Chilton Architects, based in New Haven, CT. The building will have curved glass and elliptical 25,000-sf floor plates. The project will have a 1.5-acre public park along the river, and a boutique hotel with approximately 200 rooms is planned to adjoin the tower. Van Schaack says they are not yet announcing who will manage the tower. The joint venture expects to sell the hotel portion of the project. Hines representatives previously pegged the value of the hotel at about $65 million.

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