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"One of Chicago's most beloved landmarks is getting a new owner.
The Rookery at 209 S. La Salle, an ornamented rarity that combines the work of the Burnham & Root firm with later touches by Frank Lloyd Wright, is being sold to a New York firm, Broadway Real Estate Partners. Sources said Broadway is paying just shy of $60 million.
The seller is the real estate arm of the investment bank ING Group NV, which has been an excellent steward of the property. ING was stuck with a mostly empty building when its largest renter, investment bank UBS AG, left it in 2001 for a loftier perch on Wacker Drive.
But ING kept up the Rookery's appearance while finding replacement tenants in a difficult market. In 2003, U.S. Bancorp signed up to establish a regional headquarters there. The vacancy rate at the 286,000 square-foot building is now about 20 percent, an insider said.
Given that revenue stream, some thought the Rookery would trade for more than the roughly $209 a square foot that it fetched. But the price still compares favorably with the landmark Inland Steel building, 30 W. Monroe, which was sold in August for $44.5 million, or about $190 a square foot.
The Inland Steel building had more vacancy than the Rookery, but it doesn't have a masonry exterior that can give owners fits. By all accounts, the Rookery's facade is in good shape.
Broadway was founded in 1999 and owns 10 office buildings around the country, including 300 S. Wacker in Chicago. In September, the firm said it finished raising $210 million in private equity for what it called "value-added investment opportunities'' in office buildings. Company executives could not be reached.
The Rookery dates from 1888. The name is a carryover from the building it replaced -- an old City Hall that was noted as a roost for pigeons and politicians, said Deborah Slaton, writing in the AIA Guide to Chicago."