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Esquire Theater’s transformation to retail gains ground

An artist's rendering renovated Esquire Theatre 58 E. Oak which is being converted inretail restaurant complex.

An artist's rendering of the renovated Esquire Theatre, 58 E. Oak, which is being converted into a retail and restaurant complex.

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Updated: August 23, 2012 9:54AM

The old Esquire Theater at 58 E. Oak is getting ready for its closeup in its new life as a retail and dining center.

Work on the former movie house is proceeding under terms of a deal the owner, Chicago futures trader Donald Wilson Jr., reached last year with downtown Ald. Brendan Reilly (42nd). It called for preservation of the building and its marquee, a throwback to the Esquire’s origins during Hollywood’s Golden Age.

But over time, the preservation aspect will be less important than the look of the renovation. Storefronts with 25-foot ceilings in some cases are being added to the street, giving high-end retailers an opportunity to show off their wares.

Leasing for the project has gone well enough for Wilson to expand it. He also owns two three-story buildings immediately east of the Esquire. Wilson has applied for zoning authority to tear down those buildings at 70-104 E. Oak and replace them with a three-story building, also for retailers.

“I think the design will be pretty unique and give the retailers a lot to work with,” said Luke Molloy, senior director at Cushman & Wakefield Inc. and a leasing agent for the property.

The first phase, the part within the old Esquire, covers 35,000 square feet. Molloy said it’s 80 percent leased, with the biggest user being Del Frisco Double Eagle Steak House, a nine-city chain coming to Chicago for the first time. It’s taking the second- and third-level space that used to be within a 1,400-seat auditorium.

Molloy has secured ground-floor leases from French shoe seller Christian Louboutin LLC, famous for red-lacquered soles, and Italian jeweler Buccellati Inc. Molloy said the space should be open by late this year.

The second phase at 70-104 E. Oak will cover about 12,000 square feet. Molloy said tenants are being sought.

He expects work on the site to begin as soon as permits are issued, which should be a formality once the Chicago Plan Commission endorses the project. Its approval is on the commission’s agenda Thursday.

The Esquire has been closed since 2006. The mid-block emptiness had a deadening effect on the boutique shopping district. Post-makeover, the Esquire appears ready to light up the block again.

DOWNTOWN BOUND: Private equity firm Sterling Partners is picking up stakes in Northbrook and relocating to downtown Chicago. This fall, it will move to 23,000 square feet, a full floor, at 401 N. Michigan, said its broker, Jarrett Annenberg, associate at CBRE Inc.

Sterling said the move from 1033 Skokie Blvd. will bring its more than 50 professionals downtown. The company focuses its investments in education and health care, and Chairman Steven Taslitz said, “The resources and talent that reside in the heart of Chicago will serve as a catalyst to be better, more thoughtful and creative partners.”

I can’t vouch for that, but I do know Sterling had enough clout to get a canned quote from Mayor Rahm Emanuel into its press release.

WHERE THE DEALS ARE: Commercial real estate investors are casting a wider net in their hunt for properties, according to a report by the Chicago-based CCIM Institute and Real Estate Research Corp. It said institutional buyers are moving beyond coastal hubs to the inland markets such as Chicago and Denver, while also checking out smaller cities such as Nashville, Tenn., and Charlotte, N.C.

Investors’ most favored class of property continued to be apartments, the report said, followed by hotels, industrial, retail and office.

DOING THE DEALS: Bridge Developments Partners LLC bought two buildings from Des Plaines-based Lawson Products Inc. Records show Bridge paid $4.875 million for 103,000 square feet at 600 Corporate Woods Drive, Vernon Hills, and $3.432 million for 86,000 square feet at 2350 Pinehurst Blvd., Addison. Lawson will lease the buildings short term while it completes a consolidation of its distribution in McCook this summer. . . . Duke Realty Corp. spent $9.5 million for a 257,000-square-foot building at 940 N. Enterprise, Aurora, where fastener distributor Brighton Best International Inc. has signed a long-term lease. . . . Jones Lang LaSalle Inc. represented building owner Cabot Properties Inc. in a lease of 106,000 square feet to CoreCentric Solutions at 1575 Hunter Road, Hanover Park. . . . Paine/Wetzel/TCN Worldwide handled the $1.152 million sale of a 48,000-square-foot building at 850 W. Exchange. Midwest Truck & Auto Parts Inc. bought it in an expansion from a location in the Stockyards Industrial Park. . . . HSA PrimeCare, part of HSA Commercial Real Estate, finished a 22,000-square-foot outpatient cancer center at 1850 Silver Cross Blvd. in New Lenox. The facility is a partnership involving Silver Cross Hospital and the University of Chicago Medicine. . . . Jameson Commercial represented Chicago Bagel Authority in its lease of storefront space at 955 W. Belmont for its second location.

David Roeder reports on real estate at 6:22 p.m. Thursdays on Newsradio 780 and 105.9 FM WBBM. The reports are repeated at 10:22 p.m. Thursday and 7:22 a.m. Sunday.

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