It feels like home now.
The ABA’s move into its new Chicago headquarters in mid-May was accompanied by a bit of disorientation—no surprise after 20 years in another location. It’s a little jarring, after all, to get lost trying to find the copy machine.
Within a month, however, “the new place” at 321 N. Clark St., just across the Chicago River from the Loop, already was starting to feel comfy for some 700 ABA staff members and the association’s leaders when they gathered for a meeting of the Board of Governors.
But it wasn’t until an official dedication ceremony June 12 that the new building really became home not only for the ABA’s operations but also its aspirations. “I dedicate this, our new home,” said ABA President Dennis W. Archer, “from which will flow our work of defending liberty and pursuing justice.”
In a similar vein, U.S. supreme Court Justice Anthony M. Kennedy used his dedication address to invoke the mission of the legal profession to further democracy, freedom and tolerance in America and abroad.
“The profession rises above itself to protect something even greater, and that’s what the ABA is all about,” Kennedy said. “Tolerance and respect must be great priorities for the ABA.”
It appears that many of the challenges to achieving those goals “will occur outside our borders,” he said. “We can’t fall behind in the struggle over ideas that is going on,” he said, and there can be no rest in these efforts until “concepts of freedom are a constant presence in every mind, and the pursuit of freedom is a constant endeavor of all peoples.”
Kennedy, who is on the council of the ABA’s Asia Law Initiative, urged the ABA to continue its efforts to assist in building effective justice systems there and in other regions.
The dedication ceremony was held in the airy, streamlined lobby of the 34-story building designed by Skidmore, Owings and Merrill that opened in 1987.
The ABA is leasing more than 225,000 square feet of space on 10 floors in the building. That space includes conference facilities and offices for the entire Chicago staff. Moving out of space leased from Northwestern University at 750 N. Lake Shore Drive also will allow the ABA Museum of Law to expand from 3,600 square feet to 4,300 square feet. The museum will reopen in September with a new exhibition on lawyers who have held the office of U.S. president.
Consolidating the staff in one location—which was impossible at the former quarters—was a primary consideration in the move, according to Thomas Z. Hayward Jr. of Chicago, who chaired the ABA Relocation Committee. It had been necessary to house many staff members in branch locations during much of the association’s 20-year lease at the Lake Shore Drive building. (ABA staff in Washington, D.C., occupy offices in an ABA-owned building near the White House.)
The new headquarters is making the commute easier for many staff members while putting visiting ABA members near the center of Chicago’s prime business and entertainment districts, Hayward says. The building is only steps away from the vibrant River North and Michigan Avenue districts, and a Westin Hotel is next door.
For ABA leadership and members, it will be a chance “to meet in an attractive headquarters and have the ambience of a great city around them,” Hayward says.
The Clark Street building actually was a late entry among the relocation possibilities, all in Chicago, according to Hayward and ABA Executive Director Robert A. Stein. A new owner offered lease terms in the largely empty building that made the move comparable in cost to upgrading the existing quarters and staying put, they say.
Applying a variation to an adage of real estate, Hayward said the decision came down to “location, location—and luck.”