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CHICAGO-The market in Chicago, like much of the country, doesn’t have many high notes to look back on as the year comes to an end. 2009 was a year not defined by large leases or high-priced sales. Rather it saw bankruptcy filings, postponed projects, declining lease rates, rising vacancies, relatively few sales and icons forever changed.

“Goodbye and good riddance to 2009,” Jim Postweiler, managing director of investment sales at Jones Lang LaSalle, tells GlobeSt.com.

Here’s a recap of some of the biggest Chicago commercial real estate stories in 2009.

The Tower Formerly Known as Sears

In March, the iconic Sears Tower inked a 140,000-square-foot deal with Willis Group Holdings Ltd. giving the company naming rights as part of the deal. Although the lease terms were not released on the Willis deal, sources estimate the London-based insurance company agreed to pay $14.50 per square foot; average asking price is $15 to $20 per square foot, net. Experts were surprised naming rights came with the deal, since Willis will only occupy 4% of the property. United Airlines inked a larger deal within the 3.8-million-square-foot building, taking 450,000 square feet.

GGP Files for Bankruptcy

General Growth Properties Inc. filed Chapter 11 bankruptcy in April, listing 166 regional shopping malls in the filing with the Bankruptcy Court in Southern District of New York. After court reorganization and agreements with lenders, GGP received approval of a plan that will apply to 194 debtors, which own 85 regional shopping malls, 15 office properties and three community centers. This accounts for 87 secured mortgage loans totaling $10.25 billion. The maturity dates on the loans have been extended an average of 6.4 years as of January 1, 2010. The earliest loan will mature in January 2014.

The FDIC Seizes Corus Bank

In one of the largest bank failures of the year, Corus Bank was seized by the FDIC on Sept. 11th, 2009, at the time holding $7 billion in assets and $7 billion in deposits. In September, MB Financial Bank agreed to purchase the majority of the deposits as well as roughly $49 million of assets. A month later, a Starwood-led group won the right at auction to purchase a portion of an LLC holding a $4.5-billion of assets from the defunct Corus Bank. The group, which beat out seven other bidders, planned to pay $554 million for the 40% stake.

2016 Summer Olympics Skip Chicago, Head to Rio

After nearly two years of planning the city of Chicago lost the 2016 Summer Olympic bid in the first round of voting. Collectively Chicago gasped in astonishment when the vote results were announced. The city, and its real estate companies, were looking forward to the $1.1 billion Olympic Village project and other needed arenas and athlete housing.

In the end, however, Postweiler tells GlobeSt.com the loss didn’t harm the city. “Truly, the loss of the Olympic bid had little to no impact on the commercial real estate sector. We didn’t take three steps backward just because we didn’t win the bid. Certainly a win would have meant new projects and additional growth, but I don’t think there’s any huge backlash because we didn’t get it. We were in a soft market before the announcement, and we remained in a comparable one after.”

Santiago Calatrava’s Chicago Spire

The Chicago Spire won’t appear to be twisting in the wind any time soon. After developer Shelbourne Development Group asked local unions to help re-start the $1 billion project with $170 million in short-term financing, a number of union officials said they are unable to offer their monetary support. So far only the foundation has been dug for the 150-floor building that would be the tallest in North America.

Block 37 Faces More Difficulties

The parcel of land in Chicago’s loop that is surrounded by State, Dearborn, Washington and Randolph streets, has seen its fair share of ups and downs. The Mills Corp. first began the Block 37 project and then sold it to developer Joseph Freed in April 2007. Then earlier this year, Bank of America filed to foreclose on the project, claiming Freed owed more than $128 million and asked that a receiver be appointed to manage the property and ensure its completion.

The court appointed CB Richard Ellis receiver, but the company has been unable to securing the necessary insurance to take on the responsibility. In the meantime, Freed has forged ahead inking new lease deals and opening street-level shops.

2010 Is Bound to Improve

“We are definitely looking forward to an improved 2010 with more properties trading hands in investment sales, both in the Chicago CBD as well as the suburbs, however, some of that could be in foreclosures or forced sales,” Postweiler says.

While experts across the city don’t envision a robust year in 2010, many believe there will be a pick-up in the second half of the year with real growth to be seen in most sectors by 2011. As reported by GlobeSt.com, while this economic downturn was highly synchronized globally the recovery will not be as harmonized. Markets and property types will grow at different paces based on a number of factors including job growth, retail sales and vacancy rates.

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