In the late 1970s, when McDonald's was seeking a "superior work environment" for its headquarters, it hired me as architect for its Oak Brook campus. Back then, CEO Fred Turner dreamed of building such an environment by creating a campus-in-a-park setting. By all accounts, it was successful, but times have changed, and now these magnificent buildings are being offered for sale as McDonald's moves its headquarters downtown this spring. The 74-acre landscaped campus along Jorie Boulevard opened in the 1980s and has been home to the company's 400,000-square-foot global headquarters, 130,000-square-foot Hamburger University and a 218-room Hyatt Lodge.

The obvious buyer would be another large corporation—Amazon, Apple, Google (editor's note: Crain's reported that Inland Real Estate Group has said it's mulling an acquisition of the property)—if they are open to working on the periphery of Chicago rather than in the city. The McDonald's office building was master planned for further expansions (from 250,000 to 750,000 square feet), and doing so now should not represent a major hurdle, as the zoning was approved years ago. A large corporation would most likely also have a need for a training center, which was custom designed for McDonald's as a separate building. The hotel could survive as an independent entity.

Corporate Mc Donalds Corporate Headquarters 10
Corporate Mc Donalds Corporate Headquarters 5

Another use would be an adaptive rehabilitation of the office building into a high-end residential or senior housing project. This would involve additional investments in converting the building into apartments. As a residential building converted from the original office use and made into a resort-like complex, it would offer tenants the opportunity to live in a familiar community and enjoy beautiful views of a landscaped park.

A third, less likely, use would be a college or university buyer, in which the office building would be converted to student housing units, and the former Hamburger U would be transformed into an academic learning center. This is easily doable, as the existing classrooms and lecture halls do not need to be changed.

The existing buildings are eminently adaptable to any of the above-mentioned uses. Additionally, the landscape setting is beautiful, the distance and connection to the airport is good, access to major highways is convenient, the local recreational amenities are superb and Oak Brook is a livable community with a low crime rate.

I am confident someone will snap up this great facility—one which has not at all outlived its life span—and can provide a superior and beautiful environment for many years to come.