Chicago second in nation in conversion of offices to apartments

Chicago office buildings on river Though its population may be declining, Chicago for the past two years has converted the second-most offices into residential apartments.

Since 2020, Chicago has redeveloped 1,135 new rental apartment units by converting old buildings, such as former offices, warehouses, and retail stores, reports a new study by, a nationwide rental apartment search website.

“Of this total, 1,020 new rental apartment units were created solely by repurposing office buildings,” noted Michelle Cretu (left), a communications specialist with Rent Café. “This is the second-highest number of office-to-apartment conversions in the country, placing Chicago among the top leaders in office redevelopment.”

Washington, D.C., since 2020, has led the nation, with 1,091 apartments created through adaptive reuse of office space.

The Rent Café study, based on Yardi Matrix data, revealed that 90 percent of Chicago’s 1,135 new apartments were created from office conversions, while 5 percent came from retail stores, and the balance from warehouses.

Here are details on two former high-rise office buildings in Chicago cited in the survey:

Millennium on LaSalle  

This 1960s office tower at 29 South LaSalle Street in the Loop features a rooftop swimming pool, fitness center, wi-fi lounge, theater room, and a dog park.

Rents on studio, one-bedroom, and two-bedroom units range from $1,734 to $2,958, according to Cushman & Wakefield, the property manager. Apartments have 490 to 1,290 square feet. Kitchens showcase stone countertops, stainless steel appliances, and Italian cabinets, and an in-unit washer/dryer is standard. 

“This conversion illustrates that part of what makes adaptive-reuse projects so attractive is that the old buildings remain part of the existing architectural fabric, while being completely reinvented at the same time,” the Rent Café study reports.

Century Tower

Built as offices and a bank in 1930, this famous building at 182 West Lake Street in the Loop currently houses 292 new rental apartments created through adaptive reuse.

In 2006, Century Tower was converted from office space to luxury condominiums by American Invsco, and up to 75 percent of the original condo owners were investors. This actually benefited the property’s deconversion from condos to rental apartments in 2018, when Golub & Company purchased Century Tower for $60 million and upgraded the building.

Amenities now include a media lounge, business/study lounge, fitness center, Peloton bike studio, yoga studio, and event space. Rents on studio, one-bedroom, two-bedroom, and three-bedroom layouts with 393 to 1,856 square feet range from $945 to $2,450.

Adaptive reuse is booming

Despite the pandemic, adaptive reuse apartment conversions are booming nationwide with a record 20,100 new units to be completed this year in 151 repurposed old buildings.

“Most of these units come from office redevelopments, a trend that began before the pandemic, hinting at how things may go if work-from-home arrangements continue,” noted Cretu.

“Office buildings have become the most frequent type of building to be converted since 2010, even though they are more costly to convert than hotels,” said Dr. Emil Malizia of the Department of City & Regional Planning at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. “This outcome can be attributed to their ample supply in urban locations where demand has been strong.”

In addition, Malizia said: “Perhaps the most compelling reason to choose adaptive reuse for apartments versus new apartment construction is the lower environmental impact, especially if demolition is involved. Adaptive reuse mitigates climate changes; demolition and new construction do not.”

Cost savings utilizing adaptive reuse also can be huge and boost affordable housing.

“Renovation could cost about 30 percent to 40 percent less than new construction for the same number of units,” Malizia said.

Source: Loop North News