Walgreens May Move Headquarters to Chicago, Several Obstacles Rise

Walgreen Co. is under pressure from shareholders to move its headquarters from the Deerfield, Illinois to Europe, but while its certain that the company will move, it’s hoping to stay in the country by possibly moving to a new facility in Chicago.

Walgreen is the largest employer in Deerfield, an affluent community 25 miles north of Chicago. Though the company has about 3,500 workers there, it’s not been determined just how many would come with them to Chicago should they move.

On the one hand, this is good news for Chicago, since the city learned it wouldn’t be getting the economic boost from the relocation of the Toyota Motor Corp. headquarters. On the other hand, it could severely jolt the suburban community that’s already suffering from the exodus of many of its major employers.

The particular building that Walgreen has in mind is Chicago’s Old Main Post Office, a structure that will allow the company to aesthetically define itself and improve its morale and motivation. According to Alderman Bob Fioretti, who is in charge of the building’s district, if Walgreen were to move to the post office, the new headquarters would actually become “the most visible headquarters in the world” thanks to its location besides the Chicago River and atop Amtrak and Metra tracks.

Although Bill Davies, the British investor who owns the 2.7 million-square-foot building, has negotiated with Walgreen representatives, neither side has so far been able to agree on the terms of the transaction.

“We are always conducting due diligence on our corporate footprint and have done studies in the past,” said a statement from Walgreen. “But we are not engaged with developers on any new locations for our corporate headquarters as part of that due process.”

The post office has been vacant since 1995. Although in there have been several big plans for the building in the past 19 years, none have worked out.

Fioretti has walked through the building with city inspectors several times to ensure that its owner had been keeping it up to code, and hinted that the post office did need substantial work.

With an increasing amount of obstacles between Walgreen and the post office, it seems less certain that the company will be able to go against its shareholders. The possibility of a move to Europe seems more and more likely.

“Every time a corporation comes here we say ‘Sure. Whatever you want,’” said Fioretti. “But we ought to do an analysis to determine if we should give them any subsidy.”