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Wrigley Building on track for landmark status

Updated: March 4, 2012 8:14AM

The Wrigley Building at 400 N. Michigan, a landmark to Chicagoans for decades, is about to earn that status officially.

A city commission Thursday recommended that the building get landmark protection. The decision by the Commission on Chicago Landmarks gets referred to the City Council, which is expected to make it law.

Built for and occupied for almost its entire life by the Wrigley gum company, the building dates from 1921. A north annex was finished in 1924.

The white terra cotta structure, with a clock tower, anchors the south end of the “Magnificent Mile” and is regarded as one of the city’s most precious buildings.

But it never got landmark protection because, under long-term ownership of the Wm. Wrigley Jr. Co., its future wasn’t in doubt.

That changed last year when Wrigley sold it to a group that includes Groupon Inc. founders Eric Lefkofsky and Brad Keywell, BDT Capital Partners and Zeller Realty Group.

The new owners are getting a property tax break as part of the landmark designation. They have pledged an architecturally sensitive upgrade to the building.

The 12-year tax break will save the owners about $12 million, city officials said.

New office tenants must be found for the Wrigley Building because the gum company is moving out.

“We think that this rehabilitation is essential and it’s important we carry the integrity of this property into the future,” said Paul Zeller, part of the ownership group.

The owners have committed to spend more than $73 million on improvements. Zeller said the work is needed to make the landmark suitable to incoming tenants.

County records show the building and other Wrigley-owned downtown property sold for $33 million. City officials said the building itself accounted for $11 million of that amount, and Zeller didn’t dispute the figure.

The renovation is to include new retail entrances from the plaza.

Zeller said the Wrigley company will depart around yearend, leaving about 250,000 square feet to lease.

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