Big Red’s Sale Another Step In CNA’s Cross-Loop Move

Rendering of the new CNA Center at 151 North Franklin (Courtesy of the John Buck Company)

Rendering of the new CNA Center at 151 North Franklin (Courtesy of the John Buck Company)

We don’t do a lot of real estate news here, preferring to focus on the architecture and development side of things.  But the recent sale of the big red skyscraper at 333 South Wabash is a little bit of both things.  That’s because its sale is an integral part of the do-si-do that is making the construction of a new skyscraper at 151 North Franklin possible.

333 South Wabash

333 South Wabash

The red building is CNA Center.  And so is 151 North Franklin.  CNA sold the CNA Center to the John Buck Company, and Buck is building CNA a new CNA Center.  It puts the insurance giant’s headquarters closer to mass transit opportunities like Union and Ogilvie Stations, and scores itself a building constructed to modern standards, not something conceived during the vacuum tube era.

Need more? Check out the press release from the John Buck Company below.




Iconic “Big Red” Building Swapped as JBC Begins Construction on New CNA Global Headquarters

Chicago, IL – March 25, 2016 – The John Buck Company (JBC) and CNA today announced the finalization of JBC’s acquisition of CNA’s Chicago-based, global headquarters at 333 S. Wabash Ave., completing a deal that centers around the development of the new CNA Center at 151 N. Franklin.

The 44-story, 1.1 million-square-foot building at 333 S. Wabash, affectionately known as “Big Red,” has been a distinguished member of Chicago’s skyline since it opened in 1972.

“333 S. Wabash is an institutional-class building that is well positioned to attract future tenant demand,” said Kevin Hites, Chief Investment Officer, The John Buck Company. “The tower’s prominent visibility on the Chicago skyline, 360-degree city and lake views, and easily accessible location make it a special opportunity.”

Considered a highly creative and complex agreement by real estate standards, CNA will lease its current offices at 333 S. Wabash while it awaits JBC’s completion of its new Class A office tower at 151 N. Franklin, which is expected to be delivered in Summer 2018. Bill Rolander, Principal at JBC, served as primary representation for The John Buck Company. Greg Gerber, Executive Vice President at Savills Studley, advisor to CNA, aided in the finalization of the deal.

“CNA is entering its 120th year of business and 116th year in Chicago, where we are very excited to maintain our global headquarters,” said Tom Pontarelli, Executive Vice President and Chief Administration Officer, CNA. “This sale is one of the many important milestones as we prepare for our move to CNA Center.”

The new 800,000-square-foot CNA Center will rise 35 stories, with each office floor featuring column-free lease spans with 9’6” floor-to-ceiling glass windows and columnless glass corners. Construction on the project at 151 N. Franklin began on February 29th through a partnership between Lend Lease and JBC.


Author: Editor

Editor founded the Chicago Architecture Blog in 2003, after a long career in journalism. He can be reached at

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  1. I wonder what the “real” reasons are for the move into a new undistinguished, plain building are…… because let’s face it the original building is already close to transportation (a few blocks closer hardly justifies moving a massive company.) John Buck Company must be bribing them with sweet-heart rent deals to justify the move.

    Overall just a shame, the new building simply melts into the surrounding landscape hardly worth a second look.

    Post a Reply
    • Editor

      CNA is a business. A sweetheart rent deal is a perfectly legitimate reason for moving to a new building.

      Also, it’s not just a few blocks away. It’s six blocks as the crow flies, or ten blocks walking. That’s not an insignificant haul, especially if you’ve got upper-middle managers who live on the North Shore and arrive at Ogilvie station (13 blocks from Big Red). It wouldn’t be so bad if the CTA offered more comprehensive bus options in the Loop, but everything not oriented N-S, E-W is only available a few hours a day, and the Loop Link is a little too little and a little too late.

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