ComEd turning former CME trading pit into power facility

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The Loop building that housed CME Group’s historic trading floor until COVID-19 shut it down in 2020 is about to get a new use: generating more power for downtown.

Commonwealth Edison paid $39.5 million in November for the 288,000-square-foot building at 333 S. LaSalle St., according to Cook County property records. The utility giant, which bought the five-story structure from the Chicago-based derivatives exchange, plans to to turn it into a new electrical substation slated to open in 2026, a ComEd spokesman said in a statement.

The sale marked a formal end to an era of open-outcry trading pits that CME Group announced eight months ago. Its in-person trading floors were shuttered at the beginning of the pandemic as all activity migrated to electronic trading, and the exchange said in May 2021 that almost all of those floors would be permanently closed.

CME Group’s Eurodollar options trading continues to trade both electronically and through an in-person trading floor, which will be moved to CME-leased space in the adjacent building at 141 W. Jackson Blvd., according to the exchange.

For ComEd, the trading floor building will help it address a need to meet growing demand for power in the central business district.

“This new space in the former trading pits of the Chicago Board of Trade will allow for the expansion of our electric facilities so we can continue to reliably power downtown Chicago and provide resiliency to extreme weather,” the company’s statement said.

Part of the building may be converted into office space, the statement said, and interior renovation work is slated to begin in 2023.

The ComEd spokesman did not provide specifics of the renovation work but said in an email that the “size and design” of the building is well-suited for the installation of equipment for a substation. The company has more than 800 substations across northern Illinois.

CME retained ownership of the 333 S. LaSalle building—which stands along CTA tracks at Clark and Van Buren streets—when it cashed out on the larger north and south Chicago Board of Trade towers in a 2012 sale-leaseback transaction.

CME’s open-outcry trading pits in Chicago, famous for their traders clad in colored jackets shouting buy and sell orders, were remnants of a bygone era even before the pandemic hit. Amid the rise of electronic trading, the exchange closed floor trading for most futures contracts in Chicago and New York in 2015 as open outcry had fallen to just 1% of trading volumes.