Editorial: Bringing the city to the suburbs

 
Posted5/16/2018 5:00 AM
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  • The former AT&T corporate campus in Hoffman Estates is on its way to being redeveloped as a self-contained "city."

      The former AT&T corporate campus in Hoffman Estates is on its way to being redeveloped as a self-contained "city." Eric Peterson | Staff Photographer

While McDonald's's decision to move from its sprawling Oak Brook campus to Chicago's Fulton Market neighborhood is the result of the company's desire to attract a millennial workforce, it's not the only reason corporations are deserting their sprawling suburban homes.

Changes in economic forces, the emergence of telecommuting and sweeping changes in shopping trends also are to blame.

But while the allure of rolling acreage, highway adjacency and a ready workforce is no longer working out for such companies as McDonald's, AT&T and Motorola, and there is little chance other companies simply will move into those same spaces, there is reason for optimism.

"They have tried to lease the properties and it has not worked. They now are trying plan B," said Fred Ishler, a partner with Avison Young, a commercial real estate brokerage in Rosemont.

In a story on Sunday, Business Ledger Editor Kim Mikus explores what those Plan B's might look like.

There's little the suburbs can do to stem the tide of online shopping or turn back the clock to a day when you had to be at your desk at the office all day to conduct business.

But if millennials want the city, the suburbs can bring the city to the suburbs.

A New Jersey developer is looking to change AT&T's Hoffman Estates corporate campus into a self-contained "city" that would use the existing buildings for 1.2 million square feet of offices, 60,000 square feet of retail shops and 80,000 square feet of conference space. New construction would include 375 apartments, 175 townhouse units and possibly a 200-room hotel.

The developer calls this concept a "metroburb."

The same type of development could take root at the former Motorola Solutions campus in Schaumburg.

Let us be the first to say that it is not entirely uncool to live and work in the suburbs. The emergence of entertainment and dining hubs in Rosemont, Naperville, Arlington Heights, St. Charles and even little East Dundee (among others) and the level of interest by people of all ages suggest people aren't afraid to go west of Cumberland Avenue for fun.

Lauren Tilmont of JLL, a Chicago-based company that offers brokerage and property management services, thinks there is something to this. "I think it's going to work. It may take time. I think it will bring good energy to those areas," she told Mikus.

Let's hope so.

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