John Buck Co. Breaks Ground on CNA’s New Chicago HQ

The 35-story building in Chicago’s West Loop will be the home of CNA Financial Corp.
Rendering of CNA Headquarters, 152 N. Franklin St., Chicago

Rendering of CNA’s future headquarters, 151 N. Franklin St., Chicago

Chicago—With two anchor tenants on the hook, The John Buck Co. just broke ground on 151 N. Franklin St., an 810,000-square-foot office tower that will become the new global headquarters of CNA Financial Corp., a company that has called Chicago home for 116 years.

It was an unconventional arrangement that sparked construction of 151 N. Franklin. It could be described as a lease-sale-leaseback. In 2015, CNA made a deal with JBC to lease 275,000 square feet at the office project, and JBC agreed to acquire CNA’s current headquarters at 333 S. Wabash, with the understanding that the insurer would lease back its space from JBC until its new digs at 151 N. Franklin are ready for occupancy.

Designed by John Ronan Architects and Adamson Associates, 151 N. Franklin will have more than just premier office accommodations. The 35-story tower, located in Chicago’s West Loop submarket, will be a cutting-edge destination with state-of-the art technology and LEED-CS Gold Certification. It will also feature such amenities as 10,000 square feet of retail space and a 250-seat conference facility.

CNA will not be the only big name on the tenant roster at 151 N. Franklin. Law firm Hinshaw & Culbertson LLP has also committed to space at the building, signing on for 100,000 square feet. That leaves 435,000 square feet up for grabs. Class A vacancy rate in the West Loop was a respectable 10.4 percent in the fourth quarter, per a report by MB Real Estate. But, even more promising for 151 N. Franklin is the fact that the submarket experienced the highest level of positive absorption in the Chicago CBD in 2015, soaking up a total of 772,600 square feet, 510,000 square feet of which was Class A space.

The 151 N. Franklin project, which will add roughly 2,700 construction positions to Chicago’s job market, is on track to reach completion in 2018. In the meantime, JBC is also keeping itself busy at 333 S. Wabash—or Big Red, as it’s known in Chicago—for which it paid CNA $108 million. As noted in the MB Real Estate report, the developer plans to submit the 1.1 million-square-foot skyscraper to a substantial renovation program, with an eye toward reeling in new occupants and perhaps even transforming some of the square footage into multifamily residences.

CNA isn’t looking back. “CNA’s new global headquarters recommits us to this world-class city and will better serve the needs of both our employees and customers,” Tom Motamed, CEO of CNA, said in a prepared statement. Come move-in day, 151 N. Franklin will be known as CNA Center.