Chicago's Crain Business reported this week that 203 N. Wabash has failed to find a developer, is behind on its taxes, and faces foreclosure on a $9 million dollar loan from John Hancock Life.
Originally built in 1928 as the Old Dearborn Bank Building, the narrow, 27-story structure has had a rocky history. The bank itself lasted only another few years, being liquidated in 1932. More recently, a 2004 restoration of the building's exterior has not been enough to attract a buyer. With a width of only 48 feet bringing light deep into the floorplates, you'd think the building would be a natural for residential conversion, but proposals to make the property a hotel from both Sage Hospitality and Kimpton Hotels, and another proposal to convert it to student housing have all fallen through. In 2007, it was reported to be 86% leased, last year the figure was 60%, and the latest Crain's report puts it as 42%.
Which is strange, because it's a gem of a building that was designated an official Chicago landmark in 2003. It is one of only two office buildings attributed to the firm of Rapp & Rapp, best known, best known for movie palaces like the Chicago, Uptown, Palace and Oriental. While the overall profile of 203 North Wabash is handsomely restrained, you can see Rapp & Rapp's hand in the building's whimsical ornament, which includes gargoyles, griffins, squirrels, ducks, among other creatures. It's listed currently at $12,500,00, but for now I'm betting you could pick it up for a song and, if you've got deep enough pockets to outlast the current economic collapse, make yourself a very neat profit once things turn around.