Chicago’s 225 West Wacker Drive:
A Renovation with Some Surprises
In a competitive market for office leasing, amenities can make a big difference.
That’s why landlords across the country are renovating and upgrading their common areas. In some cases, the renovations are straightforward. In other cases, they are most certainly not. The 20,000-square-foot makeover at 225 West Wacker Drive, a nearly 700,000-square-foot building in Chicago, falls squarely into the latter category.
The project seemed simple at first, says Eric Rudin, senior director at Cushman & Wakefield, who served as the project manager and who hired Syska for MEP, fire protection, structured cabling, and audiovisual systems. It encompassed a repositioned lobby with a new café, the remodeling of a conference center on the fourth floor, and a redeveloped indoor/outdoor deck on the same floor.
A 20,000-square-foot makeover in a nearly 700,000-square-foot building in Chicago.
The first obstacle was the discovery of a sprinkler main in a part of the ceiling that was covered by drywall.
But three big obstacles awaited the design team.
The first was the discovery of a sprinkler main in a part of the ceiling that was covered by drywall. “You have to understand that this building is 30 years old,” says Clint Moreno, Syska associate principal and project manager for the firm’s work at 225 West Wacker Drive. “No one knew that it was there – smack dab in the middle of where a precut stone wall was going to be situated.”
Fortunately, the contractor was able to freeze two ends of the sprinkler, cut the pipe, and reroute it, and the stone wall was installed just where it was supposed to be.
A second surprise emerged when the design team was preparing the systems for the new lobby café. As Clint explains, the café was supposed to sit on top of a thick slab. For plumbing purposes, it was “the worst possible spot.” But Syska averted a crisis by employing extensive trenching and alternative pathways.
According to Eric, heating and cooling presented additional challenges.
“The building records were not all that great, so everything related to HVAC was a bit of a mystery,” he notes. “We found an air conditioning unit that could only be accessed from a catwalk above the ceiling. We moved it because we didn’t feel that the location was safe. Again, this was something we hadn’t planned for.”
The results made the hard work and changes of direction worthwhile. Owner Spear Street Capital, which purchased the property in 2020, describes 225 West Wacker Drive as “the place where hospitality, life, work and business come together.” Eric’s colleagues at Cushman & Wakefield manage the building, and they get compliments all the time from tenants and prospective tenants, he reports.
The building records were not all that great, so everything related to HVAC was a bit of a mystery.
“It was a long project, and we were in danger of getting burnt out by the end, but we were committed to a successful outcome, and everyone worked really well together. We all still talk to each other.”
Photo credit: Skender