On September 5, the American Library Association (ALA) announced its plan to explore Chicago’s commercial real estate market with the listing of its headquarters buildings at 40 and 50 East Huron Street. Efforts to examine the value of its headquarters are fueled by its goals to enhance operational excellence, grow membership, and acquire a workplace environment that supports the development of innovative programs and services for its members.
“The ALA Executive Board and staff are committed to the mission of ALA and its long-term ability to support its members as they serve their libraries and communities,” said ALA President Loida Garcia-Febo. “The ALA headquarters are an important part of our history and have served members and staff well. But just as our communities, our libraries, and our work lives have changed, so have the needs of the Association—including those of our workplace.”
For more than a year, ALA’s Executive Board and ALA management have been engaged in a review of how to utilize ALA headquarters real estate strategically, and they recently began to work with real estate consulting firm Cushman & Wakefield (C&W).
Since February 2018, ALA has worked with C&W to examine what works, what doesn’t work, and what features will be required to create an improved work environment. Conversations and onsite surveys resulted in a Workplace Assessment and Scenario Analysis. In addition to a significant financial analysis, C&W’s study found:
- The current headquarters configuration—on multiple floors in two buildings—makes collaboration difficult and potentially stymies innovation
- Moving to a more efficient workspace would reduce occupancy costs—cost savings that could then be used to support mission-forward Association functions
- ALA Headquarters has been and could again be a considerable source of pride for both staff and members—but in its current condition, it falls short
The Workplace Assessment and Scenario Analysis results were reviewed by the ALA Executive Board during the 2018 ALA Annual Conference and Exhibition in New Orleans.
The next steps will include:
- determining the current market value of ALA’s headquarters space
- engaging an architect to further define ALA’s workplace requirements at a more detailed level
- exploring opportunities to purchase or lease space elsewhere in the downtown Chicago area
ALA management will continue to work with C&W on this process, along with consultation and decisions by the ALA Executive Board at each step. ALA staff will continue to add to the conversation by offering additional input regarding workplace requirements.