Chicago’s 213 West Institute:
From Bike Factory to Dream Factory

Forget brick-and-mortar — how about brick-and-timber?

Chicago’s River North features a lot of millennials, startups and tech/creative firms. It also includes 213 West Institute, the newest property in KBS Direct’s Growth & Income Real Estate Investment Trust.

River North is one of Chicago’s oldest neighborhoods, and features mixed use buildings that have long served the youthful population from three neighboring universities: DePaul, Northwestern and Loyola.

“It’s catering to the millennials and the younger workforce,” says Dan Park, KBS senior VP and the asset manager for the property. “They’re demanding cool bars, restaurants, lounges, music venues — anything more experiential — cool and hip, if you will. This market has the older properties — the brick-and-timber buildings — that give it character. When you add in the walkability, it’s uniquely positioned.”

Because KBS looks for properties where there is strong population and job growth. The KBS acquisition team, was successful in acquiring this non-commodity asset property.  

The building can meet most millennials’ requirements for live/work/play. It is a Class A converted loft office building valued at $43.5 million. A brick-and-timber building that has housed creative and tech tenants, the property once served as a bicycle factory, with rentable space of 155,454 square feet.

“We believe this property fits seamlessly with the character and demand of today’s workforce with its great location, walkability to amenities and access to transportation and housing,” adds KBS SVP Dan Park.

As a 100-year-old, repurposed and renovated building — and having once been a bike factory — 213 W. Institute is unique building with an interesting history.

“We love Chicago, and like a lot of markets we love, it’s still all about understanding submarkets and micro-markets,” says Park. “We never bargain hunt at the expense of location, so making sure we are in a market we believe in and a submarket we love — that’s the bullseye for us.”

When it comes to choosing locations, the KBS strategy is surprisingly simple.

“Focus on places high-growth companies want to be in most,” says Park. “Company location is usually part of a broader team-building strategy and creating a culture that fuels their specific business. As far as specific location qualities, it’s all about lifestyle, which usually means a mixture of things that are important to today’s workforce. Outdoor activities, many food choices, public transportation, nearby housing, walkability, an authentic vibe, even a sense of history if you can find it — these things are usually very high on the wish list.”  


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