CHICAGO — JPMorgan Chase is looking at development sites where it could lease as much as 1 million square feet in what could lead to one of the largest office leases in Chicago history. It also could mean changes for the bank’s well-known Loop office tower.
The banking giant, which owns and occupies the 60-story Chase Tower, recently toured several sites and listened to pitches from developers looking for an anchor tenant to kick off construction of a new skyscraper, according to people familiar with the search.
If Chase does move, it likely would look to sell its distinctive, sloped tower.
Chase occupies much of the 1.9 million-square-foot tower, but it also leases space to tenants including Exelon.
It’s possible Chase could remain in its namesake tower on Dearborn Street, as it has done after previous explorations of its options in Chicago.
But there are signs pointing to a deal this time around, amid increased attention to the quality of office space as companies call workers back from home after more than a year of COVID-19 precautions.
Another factor likely to influence Chase’s thinking: Bank of America and BMO Financial are relocating and putting their names on brand-new Chicago towers.
Bank of America Tower recently opened along the river at 110 N. Wacker Drive, and construction of BMO Tower recently topped out on a site alongside Union Station. Both of those developments are by Chicago-based Riverside Investment & Development.
Real estate experts believe it’s unlikely America’s largest bank will sit idle as rivals make major upgrades of their spaces, suggesting Chase will either overhaul space in its 52-year-old building or relocate.
In New York, Chase recently demolished its longtime office building, and it’s now constructing one of the city’s tallest skyscrapers on the same full-block site.
The move to modernize its headquarters comes as Chase Chairman and CEO Jamie Dimon publicly leads the charge to bring workers back to the office after more than a year at home because of the pandemic.
“We do not comment on rumors about specific properties,” Chase spokesman Brian Hanover said in an email. “As standard practice, we regularly assess all of our properties globally to stay up-to-date on local market trends.”
In Chicago, Chase is believed to be looking at a wide range of space for a potential lease, going as high as 1 million square feet.
A deal by Chase would be a vote of confidence for a downtown Chicago office market trying to overcome a record amount of available space because of the effects of the pandemic.
Those making pitches to Chase include Tishman Speyer for a vacant site at 130 N. Franklin St., and Hines for a site south of Willis Tower at 401 S. Wacker Drive. John Buck Co. proposes a site at 655 W. Madison St., along the east side of the Kennedy Expressway.
Other options include multiple sites in the Fulton Market district, including the longtime Bridgford Foods site at 170 N. Green St. owned by Clayco real estate development arm CRG.
While Chase evaluates development proposals, it also must consider what to do with its longtime Loop home.
In addition to staying in Chase Tower, the bank could decide to keep some workers there and move others to a new location.
If Chase decides to relocate everything, the bank could look to combine a new lease in another building with a deal to sell Chase Tower to the same developer.
One of the developers in the running for the Chase deal, Buck, in 2015 signed CNA Financial to a lease to anchor a new Franklin Street office tower. Buck also paid $108 million for CNA’s South Wabash Avenue tower, unofficially known as “Big Red.” Buck renovated the 45-story red building and signed new leases, including a 462,000-square-foot deal with Northern Trust.
For the financial payoff of landing an even larger anchor tenant such as Chase, developers are likely to be more willing to take on the risk of trying to fill a mostly vacant, decades-old tower — even coming out of a public health crisis that has contributed to a record for overall available office space.
Chase Tower and the adjacent Exelon Plaza take up an entire block in the Loop, bordered by Clark, Dearborn, Madison and Monroe streets.
It is the tallest skyscraper within the area surrounded by the Loop’s elevated CTA train tracks.
Chase’s building, designed by C.F. Murphy Associates and Perkins & Will, opened in 1969 as First National Plaza.
The 850-foot-tall tower later was named for Bank One. It became Chase Tower in 2005, after New York-based Chase acquired Bank One.
The plaza was created next to the tower in 1972, after the old First National Bank Building was demolished.
The sunken plaza is a popular gathering place in the Loop. It also is known for “The Four Seasons,” Marc Chagall’s mosaic made from glass and stone.