Crusader staff report
The vacant Johnson Publishing Company headquarters, once the home of Ebony and Jet magazines on Chicago’s Michigan Avenue, has been sold for $10 million to developer 3L Real Estate, the Rosemont-based firm announced on Nov. 20.
The announcement coincided with the news that the 46-year-old building was designated a Chicago landmark after a 10-month process.
3L Real Estate plans to spend $20 million to convert the 11-story building into 150 apartments, the Chicago Tribune reports. 3L Real Estate founder Joseph Slezak said the apartment units will be rented between $1,200 to $2,700 a month. He said when the project is completed, the apartment building will have a fitness center and a laundry room on every floor. Slezak said the building will also keep the underground parking garage that Johnson Publishing Company founder John H. Johnson built. In an interview with the Crusader, Slezak said the garage holds 20 parking spaces. Slezak also pledged to keep the historic Ebony/Jet sign at the top of the building, located at 820 S. Michigan Ave.
“We try to find unique buildings that are out there,” Slezak said. “That’s what we really pursue. We think it’s a great fit for the neighborhood.”
Slezak said the project will begin in 2018 and will be completed in 2019.
For decades it was the only Black-owned building on Michigan Avenue. In February, Black leaders urged preservationists to protect the Johnson Publishing building as developers sought fresh real estate to build new skyscrapers on Michigan Avenue and the South Loop.
Johnson Publishing’s heir Linda Johnson Rice sold the building to neighbor Columbia College in 2010 for $8 million. Columbia College had plans to turn the building into a library. Rice moved the operations of Ebony and Jet several blocks north on Michigan Avenue. Meanwhile, the building stood vacant for six years before Columbia College decided to sell the building in June 2016. Days before, Johnson Publishing’s Ebony and Jet magazines were sold to a Texas investment firm.
The building was completed in 1971 after John H. Johnson established Ebony and Jet as premiere magazines highlighting Black life and culture in America. Johnson borrowed $500 against his mothers’ furniture to start his media empire. For decades the magazines sat on millions of coffee tables in Black households across the country.