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2020 Q4 Chicago Downtown Office Report

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Pandemic Restrictions Cause 10-Year Peak in Office Vacancy

In the fourth quarter of 2020, Chicago saw overall and sublease vacancy rates rise to the highest levels since the 2009 recession. The overall Chicago CBD vacancy rate increased 120 basis points to 15 percent with sublease vacancy accounting for 1.8 percent of this total.

As expected, net absorption hit a low point in the final quarter, totaling 1.13 million square feet of negative net absorption bringing the 2020 total to 1.28 million square feet—both of which are the highest negative net absorption levels since 2009.

Class A CBD vacancy peaked at 13.0 percent in the final quarter of 2020, increasing 100 basis points from 12.0 percent last quarter— the highest quarterly Class A vacancy in seven years. However, the delivery of several new class A developments with substantial vacancy contributed to this vacancy peak. In addition, there was significant vacancies recorded in class A existing space in both the Central and East Loop submarkets.

Office Report Chicago Downtown

2020 Q4 Chicago Downtown Office Report

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Sandy McDonald

Senior Director of Research

Chicago - Downtown

I am the senior director of research at Colliers | Chicago and lead the Office Advisory Group’s market research initiative. I am responsible for building and maintaining competitive market intelligence which includes the office properties database of property sales and leases, tenant information and comparable transactions.

I also manage daily operations including the collection and analysis of market and economic-related statistics, providing clients with customized reports and in-depth interpretation of underlying trends in the market. In addition, I compile proprietary quarterly office market statistics and reports for business development and client support purposes. I am considered an expert in the field and am frequently featured in industry newspapers and publications. 

I have 13 years’ experience in commercial real estate research. Prior to joining Colliers, I served as director of market research at Transwestern. Prior to Transwestern, I spent three years at DTZ (now Cushman & Wakefield) as the senior research analyst for Chicago. Prior to joining DTZ, I spent four years with Grubb & Ellis (now Newmark Knight Frank) in Chicago as an office research analyst and support for the industrial services team.

In addition to commercial real estate experience, I've had extensive experience in the mortgage industry as a mortgage sales executive with Option One Mortgage. I not only researched, marketed, brokered and sold mortgage products to clients but also managed a team of account managers, handling account issues and client resolutions. I also developed training, introduced new products to clients and streamlined procedures in company offices.

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