Council on Tall Buildings and Urban Habitat
Monroe Building Tour
December 18, 2015
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CHICAGO – As part of their annual holiday celebrations, the CTBUH staff is given a guided tour of a notable local tall building. This year, the staff had the opportunity to visit the Monroe Building, an iconic turn-of-the-century high-rise along historic Michigan Avenue. Cushman & Wakefield Senior Leasing Director Lenora Adds led the group around the building, showing both shared amenity spaces and private offices.

The tour began in the lobby of the building, which showcases a collection of photography that documents the tower’s long history, including the extensive renovations that have recently been completed after six years of work. As explained by Adds, the 103-year-old building originally only took 11 months to complete. The long timeframe of the renovations speaks to the incredible attention to detail that the building owners took throughout the process. Adds described the entire renovation as a labor of love, suggesting that the motivations behind it were greater than just turning a profit.
The Monroe Building Lobby
The renovations restored the building to its appearance when it was first completed; no easy task after earlier work had substantially altered the design and covered up its ornate fittings and finishes. The renovators used original materials whenever possible, and the owners even contracted the original material vendors to provide supplies when necessary. Adds pointed out several details that illustrate the level of attention paid in the renovation process, including $2,500 brass doorknobs, remodeled elevators featuring original wood paneling, and original wrought iron grillage in the elevator lobby.

The group then toured the rest of the lobby floor, including back-of-the-house spaces such as the loading dock and bike room. This area also features unisex bathrooms with showers for bike commuters.

Next, Adds invited the group to view a fully fitted-out office space on the 11th floor. Here, they were joined by Monroe Building Manager Paul J. Rades, who helped lead the tour. The suite featured  meeting rooms, a dedicated kitchen space, and a printing nook, along with contemporary features such as sliding glass doors, exposed ceilings, and modern office furniture. The staff was impressed by the seamless interaction between the building’s historic design and the contemporary additions. They were equally impressed by the view, which looks out upon Monroe Street and the adjacent University Club as well as Michigan Avenue and Millennium Park.
The fully fitted-out Office space on the 11th Floor
Views from the 11th floor Office space
After absorbing the details of the model space, the group had the opportunity to view a raw office space on floor six that has yet to be built out. Here, they were able to better understand the process of creating a modern office space from a gutted historic building.

There were several shared spaces that the staff also had the opportunity to explore. These include a fully equipped conference center with two conference rooms that are available to all building tenants. Additionally, the Monroe Building is home to the Pritzker Military Museum and Library, which houses several of the shared amenities. Within the library, staff entered the two-story, 110-seat auditorium – also available to any tenant – and sat for a quick rest.
The Pritzker Military Library The 110-seat Auditorium housed within the Library
The final leg of the tour brought the group to the 13th floor where the fitness center is located. The ample space includes several different types of workout machines, a separate room for classes, and spacious changing rooms, providing yet another example of a well-planned contemporary space in a historic building.

Ultimately, the Monroe Building tour offered CTBUH staff an opportunity to view a heritage building that has been renovated to stunning effect, proving the theory that old buildings can be given new life when owners dedicate the resources to improving them.
CTBUH Staff touring the Fitness Center on the 13th Floor