For decades, corporations had been fleeing to the suburbs—but the trend is reversing in the past few years, and more and more companies are choosing a Chicago address.
CBRE Group is keeping tabs of these moves in Chicago, and more than 50 companies have moved back into shiny Chicago spaces since 2007. In 2012 alone, 13 companies headed from the Chicagoland suburbs to downtown to make a 1.2 million-square-foot mark.[i] Schaumburg, Illinois is leading as the suburb with the most migrations—they’ve seen five companies vacate their spaces to enjoy the downtown amenities—Motorola Solutions being one of them.
One of the most recent corporations getting ready to adopt a Chicago zip code is McDonald’s corporate headquarters. Approximately 2,000 McDonalds employees are going to be loving it in their new West Loop digs, in Oprah Winfrey’s former Harpo Studios.
Other big businesses packing up and headed to the city are Kraft Heinz, Hillshire Brands, ConAgra, Sara Lee, United Airlines, and AT&T.
Why the migration?
Initially, corporations were driven to the suburbs for cost savings, and that was also where the workforce was moving as cities became more expensive for families to live. But cities are becoming more attractive places to live today than they were 30 years ago. The biggest driving factors are attracting and retaining top young talent, cost cutting by downsizing, taking advantage of advanced communications, and the downtown amenities that are unrivaled in suburbia.
This trend we’re seeing also exemplifies the tearing down of the traditional corporate headquarters and accompanying cubicle walls. In today’s corporations, executives might be downtown, developers in India, and finance in Europe—there’s less of a core need to have one massive mothership taking up acres of suburban land.
In the traditional suburban corporate campus model, workers have little to no workplace variety and they see the same cast of characters day-to-day. Moving to the city helps rid talented workers of feelings of isolation and offers them the workplace flexibility and variety today’s talent is craving.
These companies are not moving from the suburbs just to set up the same rows of offices and cubicles along Lake Michigan—they’re moving into next generation spaces, without cubicle walls creating unintentional physical and departmental boundaries. They’re building outdoor spaces, and offering dozens of places to get work done. These companies are designing work around the worker—making the environment more conducive to getting work done and adapting other initiatives such coworking spaces, game rooms, and food halls.