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Chicago: Tightrope Walk to Michael Leschke’s Lasalle Street Renaissance

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Michael Leschke (Photo by Matt Haas)

Michael Leschke (Photo by Matt Haas)

M.icael Reschke is tired of rehashing his past.

The veteran developer made a tumultuous exit from Prime Group Realty Trust’s office empire after a memorable clash with Steve Ross after serving as chairman of three publicly traded companies, including the nation’s largest mall owner. I’ve experienced my time. Then, after David Lichtenstein’s Lightstone Group made a winning offer, Reschke unsuccessfully bid to reclaim his Prime office stake.

But 20 years later, the 66-year-old Houdini of Chicago real estate, now on top again as CEO of the spun-off Prime Group, faces what could be his biggest challenge yet. increase. Jahn-designed Thompson his center is a bet on his post-pandemic loop his renaissance, amid record office vacancies. The sole other bidder for the deteriorating state-owned building proposed demolishing it.

Jahn designed a large atrium and open offices to demonstrate government transparency. This was also proof of the downfall of the spaceship-shaped building. Single-pane glass walls provide poor insulation in both summer and winter, costing taxpayers $17 million a year to operate. The pillars of the building rusted due to drainage problems. Scaffolding often engulfed buildings as stones cracked and fell.

Reschke is undaunted by the promise of Illinois to buy back a third of the building and restore the attorney general’s office. Prerelease completed.

T.he is a tightrope walker

More recently, Leschke has avoided mentioning the magician, favoring comparisons to Nick Wallenda, who set two world records in 2014 by walking the Chicago River on a tightrope from the top of the Marina City West Tower to the Leo Burnett Building. I’m here. , blindfolded and walked from one rooftop of the Marina City Tower to another.

“People look at him and say, ‘You’re taking big risks, you’re crazy,'” Leschke said in an interview at Roanoke. city. “Well, Wallenda would say, ‘I’ve been doing this since I was six months old. For me, it’s like walking in the park.'”

Thompson Center, Contrary to previous reports, Reschke’s attempt to keep the office fully in place is only part of his decade-long effort to revive La Salle Street. LaSalle Street is the main north-south corridor, and the loop section includes the city’s financial district. He seeks to transform a former financial institution-surrounded “canyon” into a vibrant tourist destination with apartments and rejuvenated workplaces.

City experts convened by the city are pushing for the conversion of offices into residences. They acknowledge that costs can be prohibitive, and new developments across the river in the West Loop, particularly Fulton Market, are becoming increasingly popular with landlords looking for top-notch offices and new apartment tenants. It has become a threat.

“There will come a time and place when people will embrace Mike’s Renaissance vision, but I don’t want to be the first to bet on it,” said Philip Denny, developer of West Loop and Fulton Market.

Reschke’s Thompson Center project is a reminder of his great appetite for risk and his ability to escape skirmishes with lenders and competitors. He is currently in the process of finalizing a deal to settle his $50 million dispute with a lender.

“I don’t want to deceive the significance and importance of what we are doing today with something that was 20 years ago,” he said. “I’m interested in the Renaissance happening in Chicago right now.”

In addition to the revival of the Thompson Center, if a $191 million loan goes through on adjacent 37- and 23-story office buildings along Monroe Street on LaSalle and Clark Streets, Leschke will bet. will be raised.

He hopes to discount the face value of the loan to provide the funds to revitalize the portion of LaSalle Street, 900,000 square feet of which will be sold to BMO Harris Bank and Law for the new BMO Tower on Canal Street. It was vacated by the Chapman & Cutler exit from the office.. The nearly empty building jeopardized its owner, South Korea’s Samsung Life venture and lender Union Bank. Reschke plans to convert part of the upper floors of Clark Street into his 500 apartments.

As many would expect, the developer will also bid on the near-empty former Bank of America building next to the former BMO building once owner AmTrust returns it to the landlord. is. He expects success with these properties and with The LaSalle, his 234-room luxury hotel at 208 South LaSalle. This was converted from his fifth-floor office above his 610-room JW Marriott hotel, a project he touts as “spurring the revolution to bring about.” People go back downtown for his 24/7. ”

another venture Leshke Reed also signed a deal to settle an attempted $50 million foreclosure by Midland National Life Insurance on other office floors in the building, and he expects to refinance the space “in the very near future.” I am planning. He is confident he will keep it and turn it into 280 apartments that he leases “like popcorn” to residents attracted to the amenities and services associated with the hotel.

“It’s not a risk for me because I do it. I know how to do it,” Leschke said. “There’s no better time to buy a building. I’ve been in business for over 40 years. I’ve never seen a value this low.”

T.he looked long

Reschke wants to give the project a little more time to blossom before it closes. This is similar to the case of my son, who signed a contract promising to maintain a B average or above at the University of Colorado in Boulder, instead of pursuing the Naval Academy. just like his father wanted. His son came out with a single B-minus as a freshman, but Leschke let him stay for another year before transferring to Denver’s St. Regis University.

Reschke graduated from Arlington High School in Chicago’s northwest suburbs in 1972 and has been working as a tile setter for his father’s small business since age 16. He majored in accounting at Northern Illinois University and earned a law degree from the University of Illinois School of Law, Arthur He worked for Andersen and Winston & Strawn before turning to real estate.

On a tour of the 21st floor of 208 South LaSalle, as employees put the finishing touches on the hotel lobby and bar, he marveled at the African eucalyptus finish and handed it to the contractor behind the door. I reached out. The lobby desk did not close smoothly.

“I was always at construction sites,” Leschke said.

He also has a knack for overcoming bad timing: Reschke started the JW Marriott project just as the Great Recession was crushing financial markets.

“What Mike did at JW Marriott was put up a very exclusive flag with over 600 rooms in the heart of the Loop where there were a lot of skeptics,” said Leschke’s former partner at Prime Group before Steve. said Rich Kurt. Lot’s trials. “JW Marriott was a classic case of people suggesting it might not be a good thing, but when you look at it, it was virtually successful despite the economic downturn. rice field.”

Two more luxury hotels, Kimpton Gray and Hyatt Centric, opened in Monroe, just off LaSalle, shortly after Leschke went ahead with the project. “They followed me,” he said.

He remains negative about his rival. “He’s all jealous,” he said. “They don’t understand the risks the way I do.”

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Written by Natalia Chi

Chicago Popular; Chicago breaking news, weather and live video. Covering local politics, health, traffic and sports for Chicago, the suburbs and northwest Indiana.

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