The National Chicago

Curbed Chicago

Makeover of Daniel Burnham-Designed Office Tower Underway

A 20-story office tower designed by Daniel Burnham and built in 1907 is getting a complete makeover and some new amenities that will help the building compete in the increasingly competitive office market. Long known as the Commercial National Bank Building, the vintage office tower at 125 S. Clark is being overhauled by Blue Star Properties, which has named the project The National. The office tower was most recently the headquarters of Chicago Public Schools, but wassold to Blue Star in August 2014 for $28 million.

When completed, the renovated building will feature over 580,000 square feet of rentable space to prospective tenants. And similar to other big office renovations and adaptive reuse projects in Chicago, The National is seeking to attract tenants in the tech business — and industry that has become a major engine for Chicago’s economic recovery. The building will feature loft offices and a number of shared extras like an outdoor terrace and fitness center. In addition, the building will include a large 24,000-square-foot food hall called Revival Food Hall on the ground level which will feature a coffee bar, a cocktail bar, and a book and record store curated by the local publisher Curbside Splendor. The hospitality group 16″ on Center, which includes names like Bruce Finkelman (Empty Bottle, Thalia Hall, Dusek’s, Punch House) and Craig Golden (Thalia Hall, Dusek’s, Punch House), will operate the Revival Food Hall.

Whether it be the building or the neighborhood it’s in, modern day office tenants seek authenticity. And to make The National more attractive to prospective tenants, the building’s new owners are looking to restore many of the building’s original architectural details. The original marble hallways and ornamental flooring in the ground level are being restored while the exterior facade is also being touched up to resemble Burnham’s original vision for the tower. “We are trying to create a building that’s extremely attractive to today’s workforce,” Blue Star Properties founder and 16″ on Center partner Craig Golden says. “Our approach is to create more of a lifestyle environment with a great work/life balance.”

While the building is not quite ready for primetime, it does already have a couple of big tenants inked. Coworking giant WeWork has leased out four of the building’s fours, while stationary and paper product retailer Paper Source will be relocating their headquarters into the building. Paper Source will also have a ground floor retail location in the building. Blue Star is working with HBRA Architects on the major renovation project, which is expected to be completed by July.