POTENTIAL WIN: Pittsfield Building Listed for Sale After Years of Legal Drama and Deferred Maintenance

Pittsfield Building Vestibule, 1927, Graham, Anderson, Probst and White, 55 E. Washington Street. Designated a Chicago Landmark in 2002. Photo Credit: Eric Allix Rogers
Pittsfield Building 5-Story Interior Lobby Atrium, 1927, Graham, Anderson, Probst and White, 55 E. Washington Street. Designated a Chicago Landmark in 2002. Photo Credit: Dr. Neil Gale, Ph.D., Digital Research Library of Illinois History Journal

“After a rough five years, including a stop in receivership, the bedraggled Pittsfield Building near Millennium Park has hit the market, bringing the landmark tower a step closer to the major overhaul it badly needs.

“A new owner could pull the 38-story high-rise out of its funk, ending a dysfunctional drama that included an international financial scandal and a bitter court dispute for control of the property. The city’s tallest building when it opened as an office property in 1927, the Pittsfield could be reborn as a residential tower—part if it already is apartments—with views of the park and the lakefront.

“CBRE is courting buyers for the building at 55 E. Washington St., designed in a hybrid Gothic and art deco style that one trade journal called ‘another great edifice of decided distinction.’

“Two investors control the Pittsfield. Marc Realty, a Chicago-based landlord, owns apartments on floors 13 through 21, which aren’t part of the sale. Xiao Hua “Edward” Gong, a Chinese-born businessman who lives in Toronto, owns the rest of the building, much of it vacant and raw space.

“Gong paid $20.8 million for his floors in a 2017 bankruptcy auction, raising hopes that the building might finally undergo a major redevelopment. But those hopes faded within months, after Canadian prosecutors charged Gong with criminal securities fraud. Prosecutors froze his assets, obtaining a restraining order on the Pittsfield, which put any redevelopment plan on hold. Another Illinois property owned by Gong, the former Motorola campus in Harvard, went up for sale.

“Meanwhile, the city filed a lawsuit over the Pittfield’s deteriorating physical condition, eventually installing a receiver to oversee the property. The case degenerated into a messy multiparty court battle involving Marc Realty, Gong’s attorneys, the city and receiver Courtney Jones.

“But Jones and multiple companies are still owed money for the maintenance and rehab work they completed on the property. In February, Jones filed a foreclosure suit against the building, alleging that nearly $5 million in bills hadn’t been paid.

“Converting Gong’s portion of the building into apartments or condominiums would be a major undertaking, easily running into the tens of millions of dollars. Several years ago, a developer hatched a plan to convert some of the building into a hotel, but the city changed the property’s zoning to thwart the project, triggering a lawsuit.

“Also complicating a sale is the building’s divided ownership. A buyer could try to take over the entire property by also acquiring floors 13 through 21 from Marc Realty. Marc took over the space after its original owner defaulted on a loan for the property from Marc.” (Gallun, Crain’s Chicago Business, 6/15/22)

Read the full story at Crain’s Chicago Business

After years of neglect, a downtown landmark goes up for sale; A new owner of the Pittsfield Building could pull the 38-story tower out of its funk, ending a dysfunctional drama that included an international financial scandal and a bitter court battle, Alby Gallun, Crain’s Chicago Business, 6/15/22

The long-stalled redo of this troubled Loop tower reaches a turning point. Trying to predict the future of the Pittsfield and another prominent property owned by the same investor—the huge Motorola campus in Harvard—has been next to impossible. But that could be about to change, Alby Gallun, Crain’s Chicago Business, 5/21/21

The History of the Pittsfield Building in Chicago, Dr. Neil Gale, Ph.D., Digital Research Library of Illinois History Journal, 3/28/20

Pittsfield Building Chicago Landmark Designation Report 12/12/2001

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