Sears recently closed its last department store in Illinois and just announced that their large suburban campus will soon be up for sale:
The Hoffman Estates campus features a 2.3 million-square-foot corporate office and 273 acres, including 100 acres of undeveloped land. It was home to more than 4,000 Sears employees as recently as 2017, according to company filings…
When Sears Tower opened in 1973, it was the world’s tallest building, a fitting corporate home for the nation’s largest retailer. Sears left its namesake home in 1992, moving its corporate headquarters to Hoffman Estates and selling the tower two years later. In 2009, the name of the building was changed to Willis Tower as part of the deal for the London-based insurance firm to lease office space there.
Sears is not the only corporate mainstay to pull up stakes recently and put its suburban campus on the market.
Last month, insurance giant Allstate reached an agreement to sell its longtime headquarters in unincorporated Northbrook for $232 million to an industrial developer that plans to turn the 232-acre corporate campus into a massive logistics facility.
And what will happen to these properties? There are multiple options including:
- Staying as office or corporate space. Could there be another company or organization who would want this property? A suburb can spend a long time looking for a comparable replacement.
- Redevelop the land as a mixed-use development. See “The Metroburb” not too far way created from a former Bell Labs facility. This is a trendy approach that mixes commercial or office uses with residences.
- Convert the property to housing. There is demand for new housing in attractive suburbs and large tracts of land do not come open often.
Making this choice will require negotiation and conversation between the parent company of Sears, potential buyers, municipal leaders, residents, and others (which could include regional officials and actors in the real estate world). The whole process could take years and the outcome might retain some hint of the Sears headquarters or it might not.