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Iconic buildings for sale

March 13, 2015

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The Fisher Building in Detroit and Willis Tower in Chicago.

Two of the Midwest’s most iconic buildings — Willis Tower in Chicago and the Fisher Building in Detroit — were recently put up for sale, and they’re both expected to fetch high price tags.

Willis Tower, or Sears Tower as it was once known, went for a staggering $840 million in 2004 when New York real estate developer Joseph Chetrit purchased it, and Crain’s Chicago reports another Big Apple-based buyer — the Blackstone Group — is in a preliminary agreement with the building’s proprietors to shell out $1.5 billion for it. That price tag would shatter the Windy City’s record $850 million sale for the 60-story tower at 300 N. LaSalle St. in 2014.

Despite the extensive maintenance it will require, purchasing the 42-year-old building could be a huge coup for Blackstone. Willis generates $10,000 of income every hour, and is expected to make $86.8 million in net operating income this year from its observation deck, retail and office revenues combined, according to Crain’s. Real Capital Analytics told the publication it would be the first billion dollar deal for a U.S. building not on the coasts.

The Fisher Building, which will be put up for auction this summer along with its neighbor, the Albert Kahn Building, could also grab a relatively high price. The 30-story Art Deco structure was built in 1928 with generous funding from the Fisher brothers (who were rich auto magnates), and is considered to be one of Motor City’s most iconic buildings.

The Fisher’s owner, FK Acquisition LLC,  defaulted on a $27 million mortgage for the two buildings as they’ve both struggled with occupancy issues (80 percent for Fisher, 51 for Kahn).  Though both buildings are going through hard times, the Detroit News writes the revitalization of Midtown Detroit and the construction of a streetcar that would run along Woodward Avenue could put them in the center of a Motor City real estate boom.

The 21st century has seen a number of iconic structures like Willis and Fisher put up for sale, and most retain their original functions; some, such as the former Cleveland Trust Rotunda, get reimagined completely.

Here’s a guide to some of the most famous buildings sold over the past 15 years.

The Gherkin in London. (Via Lawrie Cate on
The Gherkin in London. (Via Lawrie Cate on

Gherkin Skyscraper
London, United Kingdom
Sold on Nov. 10, 2014 for £700 million
Current Use: Office Space

Gherkin is the second tallest building in the City of London, and was acquired late last year by the private investment firm Safra. It opened in 2004 and was built on the site of the Baltic Exchange Shipping market, which was bombed by the IRA in 1992. Gherkin’s previous owner bought the building in 2006 for £600 million.

The dome ceiling of the Cleveland Trust Rotunda. (Via OHPTC on
The dome ceiling of the Cleveland Trust Rotunda. (Via OHPTC on

Cleveland Trust Rotunda
Cleveland, Ohio
Sold December 2012, along with a group of other buildings, for $27 million
Current Use: Grocery store

The Cleveland Trust Rotunda, later known as the Ameritrust Bank, was built in 1908l. It became vacant in the 1990s and remained that way until it was sold to The Geis Companies in 2012, which then leased it to Heinen’s supermarket. It’s safe to say that it’s now one of the nicest markets in the world.

The Whitney Building prior to its redevelopment. (Via Paul Sableman on
The Whitney Building prior to its redevelopment. (Via Paul Sableman on

David Whitney Building
Detroit, Mich.
Sold March 2011 for $3.3 million
Current Use: Mixed

The beautiful 19-story building in Detroit was originally opened in 1915 to accommodate office space. When the Roxbury Group purchased it, however, they decided to convert it into a mixed-use building with apartments, a boutique hotel and ground-floor retail. The redevelopment came with a price tag of $92 million, according to MLive.

The Chrysler Building in New York City. (Via Randy OHC on
The Chrysler Building in New York City. (Via Randy OHC on

Chrysler Building
New York, NY
Sold in 2008 for $800 million
Current Use: Office space

The Art Deco skyscraper is located in Manhattan’s Midtown East, and was the world’s tallest building for 11 months after its completion in 1930. It was sold to the government of Abu Dhabi by Tishman Speyer, who still manages the building, according to the Real Deal.

The Ukraina Hotel in Moscow. (Via Patrick Lauke on

The Ukraina Hotel
Moscow, Russia
Sold in 2005 for $274 million
Current Use: Hotel

This hotel — about two miles from Red Square and the Kremlin — was commissioned by Joseph Stalin and opened in 1957. It was the tallest hotel in the world until 1976, and is now run by Radisson.

Rockefeller Center in New York City. (Via Andrew Dallos on
Rockefeller Center in New York City. (Via Andrew Dallos on

Rockefeller Center
New York, NY
Sold in 2000 for $1.85 billion
Current Use: Mixed

Rockefeller Center sold for $1.85 billion 15 years ago. It was built 40 years earlier than Willis Tower and the price it fetched in 2000 might end up being higher than what Chicago’s tallest tower will grab, which tells you something about the power of real estate in New York City.


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