“A new legal squabble has erupted over the Pittsfield Building, with an out-of-town investor suing to thwart a court-approved sale of his stake in the star-crossed East Loop landmark.
“The recent sale of 30 of the 40 floors in the high-rise at 55 E. Washington St. could mark the end of a troubled era for a property that has included a bankruptcy, multiple lawsuits and aborted deals, along with an international financial scandal. Nearly a century old, the Pittsfield badly needs a makeover after suffering from years of neglect.
“A venture led by Tom Liravongsa, an investor from Grand Rapids, Mich., acquired the Pittsfield space through a foreclosure sale in late April. An unknown in Chicago real estate circles, Liravongsa is managing partner of L’Cre Partners, an investment boutique that specializes in real estate and other alternative investments, according to its website.
“Now, the question is whether Liravongsa has the creativity, fortitude and money to get the job done. He already faces one obstacle: a lawsuit by the former owner of the space, a venture led by Chinese-Canadian business mogul Xiao Hua “Edward” Gong. Filed in Cook County Circuit Court in early April, before the sale closed, the complaint asks a judge to block the transaction, alleging it was improper and accusing the court-appointed receiver who arranged it of a variety of shenanigans.
“Judge Celia Horan did not step in to stop the sale, but case is proceeding. If the suit drags on, it could stall any redevelopment plan, leaving the Pittsfield in its current state of disrepair.
“For now, however, Liravongsa’s venture owns all but floors 13 through 21 in the Pittsfield. The former office space is mostly gutted, waiting to be redeveloped. Previous developers proposed a hotel and residential units for the space; given the continued strength of the apartment market, rental housing could make the most sense there now. Apartments fill the other floors in the building, which are owned by Chicago-based Marc Realty.
“It will take a major investment to turn around the Pittsfield. Designed by Graham Anderson Probst & White in a hybrid art deco and Gothic style, the high-rise was the tallest building in the city when it opened in 1927. It is ‘one of Chicago’s finest 1920s-era skyscrapers, built during the decade when the city’s distinctive tower-pierced downtown skyline first began to take shape,’ according to a 2001 report recommending a landmark designation for the property.” (Gallun, Crain’s Chicago Business, 5/15/23)
- Michigan investor takes over Pittsfield Building stake, but court battle drags on, Alby Gallun, Crain’s Chicago Business, 5/15/23
- 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
- Th4 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