Chicago, the largest market in the Midwest region and the third-largest market in the U.S., provides a critical link between east, west, north and south. More than 9.5 million people live and work within a nine-county metropolitan statistical area. Metropolitan Chicago is a center of learning with more than 20 colleges and universities located within the area. World renowned schools such as the University of Chicago, Northwestern University, University of Illinois-Chicago, DePaul University and Loyola University are located here, making the city’s workforce one of the most highly educated in America. The diverse, talented workforce has attracted the headquarters of more than 30 Fortune 500 companies.
Chicago is also home to the largest financial and commodity exchanges in the world, the Chicago Merchantile Exchange and the Chicago Board Options Exchange, and serves as the financial center of the region, which has a highly-diversified economy.
The Chicago real estate market as a whole is the third largest in the U.S., with more than 2.25 billion square feet of space. Almost every major REIT and national property owner has a presence in the Chicago market, either through headquarters or branch offices.
The Chicago office market, home of the original skyscraper, comprises 450 million square feet of office space. Downtown Chicago, especially along Wacker Drive, has become the location for multiple office developments and redevelopments that have reshaped the city skyline and redefined the market. The strong development activity continues to attract new institutional ownership and enhance an already vibrant market.
The retail market consists of approximately 500 million square feet of retail space. In the central business district, the market is driven by opportunistic retailers who have recognized that the CBD provides them an interesting demographic of young professionals as well as mature empty nesters. Companies entering the market and existing retailers are also creating opportunities for themselves and supporting reverse migration to the CBD. As a result, stores and retail centers have a long-term opportunity to capitalize on the creation of new residential properties.
With 1.1 billion square feet of industrial space, Chicago ranks as the second-largest industrial market in America, serving as the logistical hub of the United States. Since Chicago is the only market in the nation where all six class I rail lines converge, the industrial property sector benefits from a unique location within North America. The industrial market also gains from the rare combination of a large population and unlimited green field space. The demographics make Chicago an attractive market for industrial investors. In fact, every major U.S. industrial property investor has a presence in Chicago.
Chicago’s office prices remain highly affordable in comparison to other U.S. and international markets. This situation reflects a developer-friendly environment, a lack of physical restraints, and the desirability of the market. In contrast, stable capitalization rates can drive consistently-strong pricing in the industrial market. This is a reflection of the attractiveness of the market to institutional investors, and Chicago’s strategic location in the center of the country. Consequently, Chicago remains a vital market for institutional buyers and is positioned well for the future.
Avison Young opened its first U.S. office in Chicago in 2009, marking the launch of aggressive North American and international expansion efforts. Due to the city’s Midwest location and prominent role in North American transportation, Chicago brokers have gained considerable industrial real estate experience while also facilitating major office and retail sale and lease transactions. Avison Young’s Chicago office also works closely with the company’s other locations in Canada and the U.S. on transactions involving all asset classes.