January 2012

U.S. Cellular leases space at former HSBC complex

As seen in Chicago Real Estate Daily
By: Dave Matthews January 06, 2012

(Crain’s) — U.S. Cellular Corp. leased 40,000 square feet in a vacant former HSBC PLC complex, a small boost for the office market near O’Hare International Airport that is still hurting from the recession.

The cell phone service provider signed a four-year lease in the Oakwood Commerce Centre, a 238,202-square-foot development fully occupied by HSBC until June, when the North American unit of the financial services giant vacated the property.

Built in 1985, the complex is along North Wood Dale Road between Thorndale and Foster avenues in Wood Dale, just west of O’Hare.

“We want to do what HSBC did before: We’re going to be a high-density, processing, call center-type building,” says Jack Reardon, a senior vice-president with real estate firm NAI Hiffman, which handles Oakwood’s leasing. “In a challenging market, we just got our first deal done.”

In the slow suburban office market, even small deals are coveted.

“There has not been a lot of velocity in the market . . . although we’re starting to see that change,” says Mark Hamilton, a partner in Itasca-based developer Hamilton Partners, which attempted to lure U.S. Cellular to its Meadows Office Park in west suburban Addison.

“With big companies, there’s always kind of a chance they stay longer than they say they will,” Mr. Hamilton notes.

The four-building Oakwood complex is owned by Hartford, Conn.-based UBS Realty Investors LLC, which paid about $51.5 million for the buildings in 2001, property records show.

UBS had no debt on Oakwood and can afford to be patient as it leases up the property, Mr. Reardon says.

“There’s no clock ticking,” he says.

In a cost-cutting move, London-based HSBC in 2008 consolidated five suburban offices into a 540,000-square-foot complex in north suburban Mettawa developed by Hamilton Partners.

U.S. Cellular plans to use the complex to house vendors working on a “long-term project” that the Chicago-based company declines to identify, a spokesman says in an email.

“We made the strategic business decision to relocate some of their associates to be closer to our (information systems center in Bensenville) and (Chicago) regional headquarters,” he says.

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