Cool offices emerge

Sterling Bay to convert Fulton Market Cold Storage into West Loop's tallest office building

07/25/2012 10:00 PM

By IGOR STUDENKOV
Contributing Reporter

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The Fulton Market District is a neighborhood caught between two worlds. North of Fulton Market, meatpackers and wholesale food retailers still dot the landscape. To the south, gentrification has taken hold as restaurants, art galleries and various small businesses move in to former warehouses and factories.

The conventional wisdom is that it will only be a matter of time before gentrification sweeps the neighborhood completely.

That shift will come one step closer to reality as the Sterling Bay, a Chicago-based real estate developer, embarks on an ambitious project to redevelop one of Fulton Market District’s most prominent buildings. The Fulton Market Cold Storage building became vacant in the beginning of July, after when the eponymous refrigeration company moved its operations to suburban Lyons. Sterling Bay, which acquired the building at the end of last year, plans to convert it into a high-tech, LEED certified office and retail building.

Located at 1000 W. Fulton Market, the Cold Storage building was built in 1923. At the time, it was a cutting-edge refrigeration facility that became a centerpiece of the burgeoning Fulton Market District. At 10 stories, the building towered high above all of the surrounding structures. The “Fulton Market Cold Storage” sign painted on the small tower above the roof became something of a neighborhood icon.

But as the neighborhood changed and refrigeration technology improved, the once cutting-edge building became a burden to the owners. According to Amit Hasak, president and co-owner Fulton Market Cold Storage Company, this, along with declining business, made the company decide to move.

“It was impossible to work in this outdated building,” said Hasak, “This neighborhood is not conducive to conducting this type of business. The overhead was killing us. We have only been one-third full for the past five years.”

Hasak told Chicago Journal that he has been looking to move for years. One proposal to redevelop the building into condos faced opposition from local meat companies who worried that they wouldn’t have anywhere to store their food.

Roger Romanelli, executive director of the Randolph-Fulton Market Association, has often been skeptical of efforts to repurpose industrial buildings in the area for other uses. But when asked about his position on Sterling Bay’s plans, he said that he had no objections.

“[The Randolph-Fulton Market Association] wants to bring new jobs, new economic vitality to the neighborhood,” said Romanelli. “The Sterling Bay project does that.”

He went on to explain that the closure of Fulton Market Cold Storage didn’t effect the businesses as much as it would have a few years ago.

“To my knowledge, a lot of companies haven’t used Cold Storage recently,” said Romanelli. “They’ve either build their own storage or found alternatives. So there is some impact, but it’s minor.”

Romanelli said that Randolph-Fulton Market Association has been closely involved with the redevelopment planning.

“We have been in the talks with the developers since January,” he said. “We made a lot of good suggestions.”

Starling Bay has not commented on the redevelopment plans directly, but the project’s website (at 1Kfulton.com) offers a wealth of information.

Being storage, the current Fulton Market Cold Storage building has few windows. The western and northern walls are blank and featureless. The eastern and southern walls, on the other hand, have Art Deco facades that break up the monotony.

According to the renderings post on the website, those facades would be preserved, with walls of glass filling in the gaps. The other two walls, on the other hand, would be completely replaced with glass, exposing the floors and the columns. Retail outlets would replace the loading facilities on the building’s east side.

The plans also call for the complete demolition of smaller loading facilities on the building’s west side. They would be replaced with a new five-story structure that, judging by the renderings, would include parking and restaurants.

The plans also call for the change to the building’s most iconic features. The Fulton Cold Storage sign would be relocated to the lobby, and the tower would be used to display corporate logos of the building tenants.

Before those changes can be implemented, the building would need to be rezoned from commercial and light manufacturing to commercial, manufacturing and employment. If the rezoning is approved, Sterling Bay aims to complete the redevelopment process by the middle of 2014.

According to Crain’s Chicago Business, Sterling Bay won’t sign any leases until the rezoning process is complete.

However, the same story indicated that the developer is close to signing one tenant — Near North based SRAM International, a bicycle part maker. SRAM vice president F.K. Day, a West Loop resident, declined to comment when called.

If the project’s website is any indication, Sterling Bay is confident that the building has what it takes attract tenants.

“The building offers tenants the opportunity to work and enjoy one of Chicago’s most popular neighborhoods,” the development’s vision statement said. “[The building] will offer stunning interior common areas, efficient floor plates, and sweeping unobstructed views of the skyline.”

This article has been corrected to reflect that one proposal to rezone the Fulton Market Cold Storage building faced opposition in the past, not several.

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