CNA building gets new tenant — and maybe a new name — as Northern Trust signs deal

CNA Financial's brightly colored Loop office tower, also known as "Big Red," is getting a new namesake tenant as the insurer prepares to move its headquarters next year to a tower under construction.

Northern Trust Corp. has leased 462,000 square feet in the 45-story building at 333 S. Wabash Ave., and plans to move 2,500 to 3,000 employees there in 2020 from multiple Chicago locations, spokesman Douglas Holt said. Holt said the move will not affect the company's headquarters at 50 S. LaSalle St.

Northern Trust's deal includes signage and naming rights.

The deal, to date the year's the second-largest office lease downtown, is a big step for Chicago developer John Buck Co., which in late 2015 struck an unusual, two-part deal with CNA. In that transaction, CNA agreed to become the anchor tenant of a 35-story office tower the developer is building on Franklin Street, while Buck agreed to pay CNA $108 million for CNA's 1.2 million-square-foot red building.

In addition to needing more tenants to fill the new Franklin Street tower, which will open next June, Buck took on about 750,000 square feet of soon-to-be-vacant space from CNA. Other tenants lease the remainder of the space in the building that was completed in 1972.

"Without the right deal or the right tenant, it could have been risky," said Todd Lippman, who led a team of CBRE brokers in representing Northern Trust. "But it worked out for both sides. Northern Trust got a great deal, and so did John Buck."

John Buck was represented by Bill Rolander and Jon Cordell of Newmark Knight Frank. Northern Trust's other brokers were Todd Doney, James Whalen, Maura Mahoney and Scott Brandwein of CBRE.

A large number of the workers are expected to come from a nondescript building at 801 S. Canal St., where Northern Trust's lease expires in 2020.

"They love the high ceilings, natural light and the renovations Buck is doing to the building," Lippman said. "It seemed like a really good fit, and the timing worked well."

In a statement, Northern Trust Chairman and CEO Frederick Waddell said the lease is "part of our ongoing focus to drive efficiency and growth. This move will provide greater opportunities for our employees to collaborate and develop creative solutions in a state-of-the-art environment."

The only larger downtown Chicago office lease signed thus far in 2017 was an approximately 490,000-square-foot deal by Bank of America to anchor a planned 51-story tower on the Wacker Drive site where mall owner GGP's squat headquarters now stands.

After CNA moves out next year, Buck will spend about two years upgrading the building with new amenities, including a food court in a second-floor space now used as a cafeteria. The developer is also renovating the lobby, fitness and conference centers and auditorium, and adding a day care and shuttle service to commuter trains.

As it nears the move-in date, the bank has options to increase its space to as much as 750,000 square feet or to reduce its space, Lippman said. In the meantime, Buck is expected to continue talking with potential new tenants.

"The lease with Northern Trust, signed almost a year before CNA's planned relocation, re-establishes the building and the neighborhood as a best-in-class location," Cordell said.

rori@chicagotribune.com

Twitter @Ryan_Ori

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