Joy Jordan of Fortem Voluntas with rendering of 415-417 North Sangamon (LinkedIn, Chicago Department of Planning and Development, Getty)

A former Sterling Bay broker who single-handedly developed a West Loop office building is facing an invalid deal and a lawsuit from the seller of the project’s land, jeopardizing $100 million worth of construction work.

Joy Jordan, founder of Fortem Voluntas, was sued in Cook County Court for breach of contract by the building and land at 415-417 North Sangamon Street, a business led by investor Gray Bemis-Kelley. Fortem Voluntas is a Jordanian real estate development and investment company established in 2021. The company plans to build a $100 million, 17-story office building on the site.

The Bemis-Kelley joint venture lawsuit says it entered into a purchase agreement with Fortem in March 2022 and made three amendments at Fortem’s request to extend the purchase date. Although the agreement extended the closing date by more than a year to June 14 of this year, Jordan’s company never completed the deal. The revised agreement also lowers the purchase price from $13 million to $12.2 million at Jordan’s request, subject to Chicago City Council approval of Fortem’s zoning change request. She still failed to close a cheaper deal, the lawsuit says.

It’s not the first West Loop development deal to fall through since interest rates started to climb and force a rapid shift in the commercial real estate market. Tishman Speyer also withdrew from the Fulton Market development site deal, which planned to build a major office building at 850 West Washington Avenue in June 2022.

It is unclear why Fortem did not shut down the Sangamon Street website. Attorneys for the parties to the suit did not respond to requests for comment, and Jordan did not immediately respond to an email.

The seller of the Sangamon Street site is asking the court to compel Fortem and its title company to release the $500,000 bond the buyer paid prior to the closing date because Fortem breached the purchase agreement.

Jordan submitted plans for the development in September for an L-shaped building containing office and retail space on the northern edge of the Fulton Market District. Designed by Eckenhoff Saunders Architects, the 260-foot tower is expected to include 267,000 square feet of office space and 9,800 square feet of ground-floor retail.

The project plans to incorporate an existing masonry building at the northern end of the site. It will retain the existing facade with glass and metal paneling.

The lawsuit and the seller’s termination of the purchase agreement, which was sent in a June 14 letter, according to evidence in the complaint, could deal a blow to the three-year-old development company. The Sangamon proposal appears to be Fortem’s first major project in Chicago that Jordan has completed with his new company.

The seller terminated the purchase agreement with Fortem because the buyer failed to deliver any closing materials to the title company by the extended June closing date, the suit alleges. It’s unclear what the lawsuit means for Fortem’s prospects of securing financing for the construction of the office project or the acquisition of the development site itself, as the seller claims it is terminating the deal.

Prior to forming Fortem, Jordan worked at Stirling Bay for approximately two years. Prior to that, she had represented office owners since the Telos Group brokerage firm opened in 2012. Jordan was hired by Sterling Bay to oversee office leasing for Lincoln Yards. Previously, she was responsible for the leasing of Willis Tower, 300 South Riverside, 20 North Wacker Drive and 550 West Adams Street.

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