Middle-aged office buildings get a makeover; golf simulator, anyone?
July 22, 2016

In the midst of a midlife crisis, downtown Chicago's middle-aged buildings are doing what any other aging has-been would do: Getting face-lifts and adding some bling.

Goodbye stodgy and obsolete. Hello sleek and chic.

Commercial real estate insiders call it an amenities arms race. A few years ago, a gym and a rooftop deck were all a building needed for a quick makeover and subsequent lift in occupancy and leasing rates.

These days, the tenant wars are a bit more intense: A spiffed-up lobby, a tricked-out tenant lounge and a bike storage facility are must-haves for buildings aiming to lure more tenants and higher rents. A golf simulator might make a previously forgettable office building — yes, office building — really stand out...

"There's definitely a standard level of amenities that are now expected," added Eric Feinberg, senior vice president and Chicago co-head at Savills-Studley. "It's kind of like a race on who can one-up each other."

No more dinky gyms with shabby treadmills and an elliptical machine. Forget about dour employee lounges with a few chairs and a sofa.

Nowadays, it's all about state-of-the-art gyms, spinning studios, name-brand restaurants and bars, refurbished lobbies, parklike outdoor plazas and rooftop decks, even if they are only used a few months of the year. Bike rooms are a must. So are technical upgrades that allow employees to be mobile at work. New raised ceilings and open, airy loftlike work spaces are expected. Elevators that go directly to a desired floor — no stops — are a plus...

Middle-aged office buildings get a makeover; golf simulator, anyone?

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