BOMA/Chicago’s Chief Curmudgeon Enlightened by our Hometown Heroes, the Chicago Cubs

My job as chief staff officer for BOMA/Chicago often involves criticizing and opposing proposed actions that we view as damaging to our members, the commercial real estate industry, and our great city. Sometimes I’m a naysayer and sometimes I go on a rant. But not today.

Today it’s about celebrating our Cubbies in the World Series.

For all that’s wrong and troubling in Chicago these days, it’s incredibly refreshing to have something to be proud about, something that brings honor and celebration to our city, something that so embodies the can-do spirit of our city and our Cubs, something that recognizes this amazing accomplishment by the team, the owners and managers, and the fans.

As BOMA/Chicago’s professional curmudgeon, it’s not often that something as sweet as this brings a smile and a tear of joy to my face. But it did on Saturday night. I’ve never been a huge baseball fan, but I think that many Chicagoans like me became fans on Saturday – at least for a little while, but maybe for a lifetime. So thanks to our Cubs for that.

Please join me and the BOMA/Chicago family by lighting your buildings blue for our home town heroes as they begin the World Series of this amazing season.



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A Closer Look at the Property Tax Burden on BOMA/Chicago Buildings

At BOMA/Chicago, we’re always advocating on our members’ behalf by regularly engaging in open, productive dialogue with key stakeholders surrounding public policy and fiscal decisions aimed at fostering a thriving Chicago.

While our elected officials at the local, state and federal levels initially come to mind when thinking about policy issues, it’s also important to not overlook another mainstream player – the media. Whether behind the scenes or out front making headline news – as best exemplified in the extensive media coverage Michael Cornicelli outlined in his blog post last year surrounding Mayor Emanuel’s property tax increases – we’re always working closely with reporters, editors and producers throughout Chicago to further educate them on our position surrounding issues impacting our members and the City.

Part of this effort involves sharing information. BOMA/Chicago regularly tracks and aggregates data to help shape our conversations with the media and build solid, mutually-beneficial relationships with key reporters covering our industry.

Last Thursday, Crain’s published an article by Greg Hinz titled “Are property taxes on office towers rising less than on homes?” It centered around property taxes and assessments, in which BOMA/Chicago openly shared pertinent data. Unfortunately, the article incorrectly extended conclusions from the data provided which painted an overwhelmingly inaccurate picture of Chicago’s commercial real estate industry.

It should come as no surprise that the story raised major red flags for all of us at BOMA/Chicago. Bottom line: Crain’s got this one wrong. BOMA/Chicago has already replied publicly with a letter to the editor, and we also wanted to communicate with our members directly to shed some light on where the article missed the mark.

  • Taxes: It was implied that BOMA/Chicago buildings pay less, when in fact our data shows that as a percentage of assessed value, our member buildings paid 18.3% in taxes, compared to 17.4% by all Chicago property.  And most importantly – our member buildings are paying over $842 million in taxes –$94 million more than last year.
  • Tax Burden: The reality is commercial buildings are already assessed at a rate that is 250 percent higher than residential buildings. That means that for every $100 of property value, single-family homes are assessed $10 and commercial buildings are assessed $25.

Understanding the true tax burden on BOMA/Chicago buildings is not only protecting the best interest of our members and the thousands of businesses they house – it’s also protecting the very economic engine that drives Chicago. Increasing property taxes threatens that engine and the economic fate of the city. BOMA/Chicago remains committed to working with  both elected officials and media to help steer the issue in a direction we can all get behind.



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Fundamentals of Emergency Preparedness in the CBD

Keeping buildings and tenants safe is a top priority – and it begins with proper preparation. A key part of any preparedness plan is fully understanding the resources available in the event of an emergency. To ensure these resources are front and center, we decided to get back to the basics last week and invited some of Chicago’s first responder agencies to attend our Preparedness Committee’s Open Meeting and discuss the fundamentals of emergency preparedness in the Central Business District. Our guests included:

  • Earl Mashaw – Office of Emergency Management and Communication
  • Commander Wally Schroeder – Chicago Fire Department
  • District Chief Brian Helmold – Chicago Fire Department
  • Sergeant Amanda Vanek – Chicago Police Department
  • Sergeant Joel Holler – Chicago Police Department
  • Officer Kevin Hacker – Chicago Police Department
  • Detective Baz Khoushaba – Chicago Police Department

The key takeaway for our building members from this meeting centered on the importance of cultivating relationships with first responders in the CBD that keep us safe and increasing awareness of the resources available through these agencies. Below is a high-level overview of the key points shared by our partner agencies.

Earl Mashaw – Office of Emergency Management and Communication (OEMC)

Above all else, the primary intent and goal of the OEMC is to keep Chicago safe through the coordination of various business units’ operations. This can be done through 911 operations, 311 city services, traffic management authorities and public safety information technology, including security cameras throughout the City. The OEMC accomplishes this through various information centers, including:

  • Coordination Centers – houses city-wide information to ensure all OEM information centers operate to the best of their abilities and with the most accurate, up-to-date information
  • Operations Centers – conducts public safety monitoring and coordination
  • City Incident Centers – conducts public works monitoring and coordination
  • Emergency Operations Centers – conducts information and resource coordination during large-scale events
  • Joint Information Centers – coordinates emergency public information to ensure clear and consistent communications during an incident
  • Chicago Public Schools Security Center – NEW – collects and aggregates data from CPS

Wally Schroeder, Chicago Fire Department – Fire Safety Director Program

In partnership with BOMA/Chicago, the Chicago Fire Department’s Fire Safety Director program has become an accelerated, comprehensive educational course addressing the key aspects of fire safety, including city codes, fire behavior, building components and overall fire emergency preparedness. Upon completing the program, each building’s fire safety director is certified for a two year period before being required to obtain recertification. But take note building members – your certification is only good for the building at which you worked during the time of completion. For more information or to register with the Fire Safety Director Program, visit:

Brian Helmold, Chicago Fire Department – High Rise Incident Command Procedures

A fire within any BOMA/Chicago building will be a complex situation involving the action of numerous individuals and groups to ensure the safety of everyone within the building. Most importantly, timing is everything. Upon arrival, first responders will rely on building management to relay critical information to help accelerate the process, including:

  • Location of the fire (floor/tenant)
  • Elevator that services all floor (preferably a freight elevator)
  • Evacuation announcements previously provided
  • Location of stairwells
  • Evacuation plans/floor plans
  • Special needs occupants
  • Details of building’s HVAC systems, fire pump location, alarm panel information, electric closets and sprinkler system shutdown

Sergeants Amanda Vanek & Joel Holler, Chicago Police Department – Business Liaisons

Just as every BOMA/Chicago building is different, so too are the concerns of each of our members. One of the primary purposes of the Chicago Police Department’s business liaisons is to build relationships with the constituents of the Central Business District – they do so by regularly attending BOMA/Chicago meetings and events – and address those individual concerns.  The Chicago Police Department strongly encourages our members to reach out with any issues (nothing is too big or too small), but some common concerns the liaisons address include:

  • Large-scale, private events at buildings
  • Special guest appearances (i.e., dignitaries)
  • Obtaining liquor licenses for events
  • Active shooter planning and preparation
  • Up-to-date information surrounding protests/demonstrations
  • Homelessness (in partnership with City Services and Department of Human Services)
  • Robberies/Crimes of opportunity in the Central Business District

Generally speaking, businesses located north of the river are in the 18th district and can contact the Business Liaison officers at 312-742-5880.  Businesses south of the river are in the 1st district and can call (312) 745-4295.

Officer Kevin Hacker, Chicago Police Department – CP3 and FIMS

The Chicago Public/Private Partnership (CP3) aims to leverage enhanced information sharing and more timely communication to create a safe and more secure Chicago. The focus is to:

  • Create a secure, single site for collecting facility data
  • Create a means to expand and facilitate information sharing between private and public sectors
  • Create a collaborative environment
  • Create the ability to develop a consistent first responder data report

In order for this process to be as effective as possible, both building management and tenants need to provide data and information pertaining to contact information, floor plans, hazardous materials on site, CCTV details and tenant information, among others. The goal is to then share this information with the public sector, where it can be accessed through first responder networks to support efforts in the event of an emergency. Learn more or sign up at

Detective Baz Khoushaba, Chicago Police Department – Suspicious Activity Reporting

“If you see something, say something” is truly the mantra when it comes to reporting suspicious activity. The Chicago Police Department relies on the eyes and ears of everyday citizens to identify suspicious behavior, and this is something each and every one of our building members can stress to the tenants in their properties. By leveraging various law protection agencies such as the FBI and Department of Homeland Security, the Chicago Police Department incorporates the information shared by the public to aid new or ongoing investigations involving everything from minor incidents to potential acts of terrorism. At the end of the day, it’s everyone’s job to report suspicious behavior and work as a collective unit to ensure everyone stays safe.  Suspicious activity or behavior can be reported to the “See Something Say Something” hotline at 855-RPRT-2-S$ (855-777-8274).  However, if you are witnessing suspicious activity as it is occurring, Detective Khoushaba advised people not to be hesitant to contact 911 so that there is the possibility of immediate investigation into the event.

For more information on emergency preparedness, or if you’d like to connect with any of our first responder partners, please contact Ron Tabaczynski, BOMA/Chicago’s Director of Government Affairs, at








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Premier Security’s 5K for Missing Children


By: Jim Taff, CEO, Premier Security

Child abduction and exploitation is a very real and serious issue that occurs in many of America’s major cities, just like right here in Chicago. According to the FBI, there were over 460,000 reports of missing children in the United States during the year of 2015 entered into the National Crime Information Database.

Plain and simple, these numbers are staggering. Which is why Premier Security has decided to take a stand and support the efforts of the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children (NCMEC) by providing specialized security officer training to each of our over 1,000 employees in what to know for these types of crimes. But, we are also taking our support one step further. To help raise awareness of this very serious issue and to educate families on how to keep kids safe, we are hosting Chicago’s first 5K Run/Walk benefiting NCMEC.

On October 15, 2016, hundreds of families will gather together and run/walk to raise awareness and support NCMEC’s mission. Starting and finishing in DuSable Harbor, runners and walkers from throughout Illinois will block out the lakefront trail. The event will include a 5k Run and Walk, a Kid’s Dash, Face Painting, Bounce House, Kids IDing, Post Race Party and many other great activities for the entire family. Registration for this event is now open. We welcome anyone to join us who is willing to help raise awareness or learn ways that they can keep their children safe. We are extremely excited to be able to host such a worthwhile event and are looking forward to a very successful day!

Premier Security is a BOMA/Chicago Annual Premier Sponsor.

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Eight Strategies for TOBY Success

Achieving TOBY success on the local, regional and international levels can be quite a challenge, though the hard work and preparation– win or lose – results in stronger teams, greater collaboration and exceptional buildings. Industry leaders from BOMA/Chicago’s 2016 TOBY International winners, Susan Hammer, general manager for Riverview Realty Partners at AMA Plaza and Martin Huttenlocker, property manager for Sterling Bay at 564 West Randolph, share their winning TOBY competition strategies.

Read Susan and Martin’s eight TOBY tips and best practices below and consider applying for the 2017 local TOBY Award.

Get Stakeholder Buy-In

Susan: A successful TOBY campaign starts with stakeholder involvement. The owners, asset managers, tenants and vendors, as well as the on-site management staff, must be involved and passionate about the TOBY program. All team members should understand that participation in the TOBY competition increases value through market recognition while simultaneously creating team cohesion that lasts well beyond the TOBY competition itself.

Don’t Wait Until the Last Minute

Susan: The TOBY competition is a process, and to be successful, proper planning is crucial. Rushing to clean-up or paint areas right before the inspection or slapping together a haphazard narrative is an obvious indication to the judges that the team did not have a thoughtful plan or desire to win. The TOBY competition is a serious undertaking, but the rewards received after creating a solid, thoughtful TOBY application and inspection protocols produce an indescribable sense of accomplishment.

Martin: Applying for a TOBY takes a lot of time and thought. Get focused early and meet with your team to discuss the story of your building and the aspects of your building that you want to highlight in your application.

Focus on the Present

Martin: Your TOBY application must highlight the current programs of your building, not future plans, amenities, etc. Meet with your team and brainstorm about all of your building’s accomplishments over the past year. Don’t focus on future plans or projects because this could take away from the amazing programs already in place.

Don’t Stray from TOBY Guidelines

Susan: The TOBY Entry Requirements and Guidelines must be followed as closely as possible when writing the narrative section. Organization is a key component here. Writing in accordance with the chronology in the guidelines will make it easier for the judges to check off each required component.  A missing section or a missing/incomplete attachment will result in a lower score.

Proof Read & Spell Check

Susan: Typographical and grammatical errors in the narrative leave a poor impression with the judges and may be the item which separates the first position from the second. Spell check should be used. Also ask several people to read the narrative to help ensure that errors are eliminated from the final application.

Practice, Practice, Practice

Susan: At the local level, the building inspection is the most important component. There is a limited amount of time for each tour, so the more organized and complete the tour is, the better impression will be made on the judges. Practice the inspection and the presentation in advance to identify areas which may still require attention or gaps in the presentation.

Prepare for the Unexpected

Martin: Be prepared to go off track. Inspection tours never go 100% as planned and judges can ask to see any room, closet, bathroom, etc. As you practice, have someone pretend to be a judge and think of all possible scenarios for the inspection. But, remember that judges will likely throw a curveball. Practicing in advance will help you be prepared for these curveballs.

Organize and Review Your Files

Martin: Review your files to ensure they are all complete and updated. Then organize them in one central location for the judges so you don’t waste their time searching for documents.

Susan: Make sure all of your team members are familiar with your required forms and documents and that they are prepared to answer questions and participate in describing components/programs of the building.

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What Exelon and ComEd Don’t Want You to Know

With electricity costs making up the first or second largest expense for BOMA/Chicago buildings, it’s crucial that we continue shedding light on Exelon and ComEd’s proposed legislation which would raise electricity rates a whopping $8 billion over the next ten years. BOMA/Chicago buildings alone – making up 5% of ComEd’s energy load – can expect to pay an increase of an estimated $385 million.

More than likely you don’t have time to pour through the tedious and complex legislation, so here are some basic facts that we suspect Exelon and ComEd don’t want you to know:

  1. Exelon is a publicly-traded, profitable company demanding a bailout. Buildings certainly don’t get a bailout, so why should a massive corporation that profited $2 billion last year and increased shareholder profits get one?
  2. Exelon’s plants have secured billions of dollars in contracts and subsidies. Despite claiming poor-performing nuclear plants, Exelon has secured over $4 billion in long-term contracts and subsidies for its nuclear plants.
  3. The numbers aren’t there now and won’t ever be if the rate increases are passed. Not only has Exelon failed to be forthcoming with all revenues at its nuclear plants, the rate increase proposal erodes public disclosure mandates and allows Exelon to keep ratepayer bailout money even if their nuclear plants are profitable. No trueup based on actual profitability would be required.
  4. ComEd will now profit from customer-funded sustainability incentives. Today ratepayers pay a 2% assessment on all electricity bills which is set aside in its entirety to fund or rebate various customer energy efficiency initiatives. This legislation would allow ComEd to profit through a “rate of return” when using dollars designated for energy efficiency – ultimately increasing costs to all customers.
  5. ComEd only makes money when electricity meters are spinning. Current law mandates that ComEd meet statutory goals for energy efficiency reductions – goals that ComEd has yet to actually achieve. The current statutory goal would be decimated, as this new legislation provides the utility with waivers to avoid meeting those requirements.
  6. Bottom Line: Chicago’s businesses will have to foot the bill. BOMA/Chicago buildings house more than 10,000 tenants who will ultimately pay the bill on top of a series of hefty property tax increase and fee increases the city has recently implemented . We have to wonder – how much more piling on will they tolerate?

BOMA/Chicago has begun a constructive dialogue directly with ComEd and Exelon regarding their proposed changes to energy policy in Illinois. As always, it is the goal of BOMA/Chicago to mitigate any potential threat to our members and ensure that any impacts are as minimal as possible.

>> Six Surprising Facts about the Exelon/ComEd Rate Increase Proposal

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Beeting the Summer Heat at 1KFulton

Next up in our series on sustainable rooftops and initiatives, we talk to Rachael Bruketta, Assistant Property Manager with Sterling Bay, who fills us in on 1000 West Fulton’s rooftop vegetable garden including maintenance, vegetable selection, environmental impact and tenant engagement.

What was the motivation to create a vegetable garden?

1KFulton strives to operate as efficiently as possible and we want to provide a healthy and enjoyable workspace for our building’s occupants. With a green roof already in place, we wanted to test our green thumbs and enhance our space with fresh, organic produce.

How did you build the vegetable garden?

We have a common roof deck on the seventh floor that’s accessible by all our tenants. The deck features planter beds with built-in irrigation and draining systems and previously contained native grasses and trees. With the help of our landscaper, we installed organic growing media and 384 plants into the beds. This was our first season of roof deck gardening, and we decided to install existing plants instead of seeds to bring a higher yield.

How did you work with your team initially to bring this concept into fruition?

1KFulton has had beehives on our roof deck for over a year, so we decided to decrease the travel time for our bees to pollinate! Additionally, our building team is very interested in sourcing products locally that we could also share with our tenants.

How did you decide which vegetables to plant?

Given that our building has great chefs and fantastic restaurants and dining areas, we chose plants they could use in their kitchens, including leafy greens and herbs. We also stayed away from tall plants like corn and beans so windy days don’t pose a threat.

How do you maintain the garden?

On days when we don’t have sufficient rainfall, we use our built-in irrigation to make sure the roof deck garden is properly watered. We work with our landscaper to maintain and weed the garden at least every other week. We also coordinate harvesting and cleaning of the produce with our landscaper prior to sharing with our tenants.

What’s the impact of your vegetable garden on the environment?

 1KFulton’s rooftop garden improves air quality, helps storm water management, reduces our building’s energy demand and reduces urban heat island effect.

Does the garden offer any ROI to the building?

Beyond providing an amenity for our tenants, we hope that our roof deck garden helps to increase the lifespan of our roof and that it will contribute to a reduction in running our HVAC.

What should other buildings consider if they want to build a vegetable garden?

For starters, make sure your roof space can handle the weight load of your garden and that your garden has enough space and a proper irrigation system to thrive. We also advise getting buy-in from your tenants regarding what kind of produce you grow in your space.

What other green features does your building feature?

In addition to composting and recycling programs, 1KFulton also has beehives and provides a shared bicycle program to all tenants.


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