Suburban Chicago office vacancies some of the highest nationwide

October 1, 2012

Scott Kanowsky

flickr/Chuck Jines
Motorola Mobility officials say it will be moving its headquarters from suburban Libertyville to the Merchandise Mart in summer 2013.

A report from the commercial real estate services firm Studley Inc. shows suburban Chicago has some of the highest amount of vacant office space in the country.

Preliminary third-quarter data shows 24.3 percent of suburban Chicago office space is available — the most out of all U.S. metropolitan areas surveyed.  That figure is also one of the highest the report has ever recorded for the area, according to Studley Executive Vice President Rick Schuham.

"We have had a couple of very nominal downticks, but for all intents and purposes, it is near all-time highs in terms of availability," Schuham said in a phone interview Monday. 

He said there are a number of possible causes including a weak economy and the recent flight of some corporations from large suburban headquarters to urban locations.

One such case involves Motorola Mobility, which is set to vacate its headquarters in the northern suburb of Libertyville for the Merchandise Mart in summer 2013. The move will leave Motorola Mobility's large campus empty and relocate some 3,000 workers, which has some Libertyville officials concerned.

"Where we would see some impact is probably on some of our smaller businesses in town who, maybe it is our hotels or our restaurants, who were pretty good providers to the Motorola campus," said Libertyville Economic Development Coordinator Heather Rowe.

She, however, did not think Libertyville was a victim of corporate flight to downtown Chicago, saying that "office, industrial, and retail vacancies" are better than they have been in past years. Schuham also said the high vacancy numbers cannot be solely blamed on corporate movement into the city.

But small businesses near Libertyville said Monday they expect to feel the effects of Motorola Mobility's departure.

"We have a clientele base outside of Motorola that’s pretty extensive," said Mike Belasco, who is an assistant manager at Park Street, a restaurant in nearby Mundelein.

"But [...] there’s a lot of people there that we all knew that won’t be coming here. So it’s hard to see around a loss."

Belasco said the restaurant is not currently struggling, though he is frustrated to lose the steady business, saying that customers from Motorola Mobility frequently come into the restaurant during lunchtime.

"We just got to keep doing our job, there's no way around. I mean, there's no need to panic unless there officially is a reason to panic," he said.