City Council committee approves office leases

15-year Loop office lease for Environment Department, police oversight panel OK’d by City Council committee despite backlash


A seemingly routine proposal to lease downtown office space ran into a buzz saw of opposition Tuesday from City Council members demanding that city departments fill vacant government-owned space in Chicago neighborhoods.

Over those objections, the Housing Committee ultimately agreed to enlarge the city’s footprint at 2 N. LaSalle by 16,097 square feet, at a cost of $36,271 per month, but only because the Community Commission for Public Safety and Accountability and reborn Department of Environment desperately need the space to solve an immediate crisis hampering operations.

The president of the police oversight panel, Anthony Driver, said the commission has lost staff and will “continue to lose more” if it is forced to continue sharing the seventh-floor space at 2 N. La Salle with other city departments. The space is so cramped that Executive Director Adam Gross is the only person with a private office.  

“There was a detective who reached out to me who … has some concerns that she wanted to share, but I have to take her to a coffee shop. … It’s inappropriate to be having those types of conversations in a public space and not actually have an office,” Driver told the committee.

“Our lawyer who deals with very sensitive information doesn’t have an office,” Driver said. “When we did the superintendent search, we had 54 applications of police leaders all around this country. I was very worried about a leak and folks’ information being made public. … Our staff is all jammed into cubicles and shared space as we are having sensitive conversations with organizations like COPA, CPD, the Police Board. … We have nowhere to do that.”

Driver said the space shortage is a problem both in filling jobs and in accommodating people already hired. One staffer who just started and another about to come on board have “nowhere to go,” he said.

Deputy Chief Sustainability Officer Jared Policicchio told a similar story about cramped space hampering the new Department of Environment’s ability to augment its skeletal staff of five with nine more full-time employees.

“We have no location for those folks to sit,” Policicchio said.

“Our top priority is building out that staff as quickly as possible because we can’t deliver on the agenda that you all want us to be working on if we don’t get those positions filled and have a place for them to go.”

Michelle Woods of the Department of Assets, Information and Services, assured alderpersons she is “working to identify space” in Chicago neighborhoods to replace 2 N. La Salle and other downtown office buildings. An assessment of City Hall is also underway to optimize space in that landmark building, she said.

But, that wasn’t enough to convince South Side Ald. Jeanette Taylor (20th) that a 15-year lease at 2 N. La Salle, where the city has already paid $28 million to rent space, was the best deal for Chicago taxpayers.

That amount “could have fixed every vacant building that the city owns in my ward. … For $28 million, we’ve bought that building. … I’m pretty sure we’d have bought that building twice,” Taylor said.

“And this thing about being downtown? I hate downtown. I hate the traffic. … Nothing is convenient here. … Please do not bring me back another lease with somebody talking about they need to move or they’re outgrowing the space because they gonna be in the 20th Ward on the community side messing with me,” Taylor said. “We all refuse to do this for anybody else.”

West Side Ald. Monique Scott (24th) said it’s “mind-boggling” that the city has already shelled out $28 million to lease space across the street from City Hall for six city departments.

“Downtown is nice, and it’s exclusive, and it’s lovely. But … the work that you’re doing is in communities. It’s not downtown. … If you’re serving us, you need to come inside the community instead of in your safe space for $28 million that we then in our communities have to answer to because you want an office downtown.”


Housing Committee Chair Byron Sigcho-Lopez (25th) wrapped up the 90-minute gripe session with a promise.

“This is a process that must be revised” to take into account “how we are utilizing our existing assets as well as exploring new opportunities in our neighborhoods,” he said. “We will not have any additional leases without a review of such policies.” 


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