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Fulton Market, Chicago’s burgeoning hi-tech hub, complements the loop

Ron Stang
Fulton Market, Chicago’s burgeoning hi-tech hub, complements the loop
STERLING BAY — "Creative" office tower 360 North Green's "Amenity Lounge.”

Chicago’s Fulton Market is a large fast-growing area that is a mix of large repurposed legacy buildings and new infill towers which is creating a sort of ideal work-residential neighborhood.

The former meatpacking district, with century-old warehouses that once served Chicagoland’s vast grocery retail market, over the past 10 years is emerging as perhaps the region’s top real estate submarket.

Located in the West Loop, the multi-block neighborhood struck gold with the relocation of two top tier corporate offices – Google’s Midwest HQ in 2012 and Chicago-based McDonald’s in 2018.

Those moves were the “impetus” for a conglomeration of commercial and residential developments complemented by retail, hotels and restaurants, creating a self-sustaining work-live-play area, said Ron DeVries, senior managing director at Integra Realty Resources, a real estate appraisal firm.

“There’s a lot of hot markets in the city of Chicago but this is one of the ones where we’re just seeing a big gentrification happening on a scale. It’s not really gentrification, it’s really change of use, because it wasn’t really a residential neighborhood,” he said. “But there’s just a lot of new construction, a lot of redevelopment and renovation going on.”

Julie Goudie, spokeswoman for Fulton Market’s lead developer Sterling Bay, which brought in both Google and McDonald’s, said the district continues to thrive despite the COVID-19 pandemic and current “uncertain” commercial real estate market. Leasing and construction never really slowed during COVID and as a result the district has seen a “more rapid bounce back” compared to other area submarkets, she said.

The Fulton Market redevelopment is ideal for a company like Sterling Bay, whose vision is developing “next gen” offices, “properties that transform the way our tenants work and redefine the way our neighbors live.”

Besides Google, which moved into a renovated cold storage building, and McDonald’s, which relocated from the suburbs into an entirely new building, Sterling Bay has brought in high profile firms like Uber, Dyson, Wilson and Boston Consulting Group.

Boston Consulting’s Brad Martens said Fulton will be a “magnet for our recruits, and the state-of-the-art office will enable new forms of collaboration between our teams and our clients.”

1) Lead Fulton Market developer Sterling Bay's first residential tower, The Dylan.
STERLING BAY — 1) Lead Fulton Market developer Sterling Bay’s first residential tower, The Dylan.

While Sterling Bay has brought in several other companies developing the “global tech hub,” it’s first residential development, The Dylan, is nearing completion.

“The development is designed to appeal to individuals seeking to live at the heart of Fulton Market’s activity, with quick access to premium retail, entertainment and restaurants, and also private onsite amenities,” Goudie said.

While a new build, The Dylan at 160 North Morgan St. “takes cues from surrounding warehouses” with features like vignettes, materials and shapes to “bring an artistic element that feels unexpected.”

But it’s not the area’s first residential complex.

Greystar opened One Six Six, a 223-unit apartment building earlier this year, situated smack inbetween Google and McDonald’s.

The city has approved thousands more residential units for the district and as many as 1,500 are now under construction including an allocation of affordable rentals.

Besides repurposed warehouses, Sterling Bay has completed or is building new office towers. 345 North Morgan St. is an 11-storey, 200,000-square-foot “boutique” building and 360 North Green St. is a 24-storey, 500,000-square-foot glass tower.

345 North Morgan opened last September with 13-foot floor-to-ceiling windows and is 90 per cent leased. Tenants include HAVI Group, Allsteel, JSI and Humanscale. The building’s design allows for “showroom environments.”

In June, Fulton Market held its second annual Design Days, attracting thousands of industry buyers including to another showplace designed building, Thor Equities’ 19 storey tower.

Goudie said 345 North Morgan is inspired by the “materiality and details” of historic train stations.

“Feature archways serve as a subtle motif throughout, from fireplaces and elevators to the building’s logo.”

Goudie added design firms have migrated to Fulton Market because it offers a “a more design-centric, hospitality-forward tenant experience” while “allowing them to rethink what a showroom can be.”

When 360 North Green, anchored by Boston Consulting, opens it will be a “creative” tower featuring private outdoor terraces on every floor, and flexible, customized floorplates for future tenants.

DeVries said while Fulton Market is burgeoning it doesn’t pose a threat to the adjoining traditional loop business district, which is larger in scale and a transportation hub.

The CBD is also seeing massive new office tower development, as much as three-million-square-feet. This includes the 51-storey BMO bank tower.

DeVries said that compares to more than a dozen Fulton Market buildings of between roughly 30,000 and 100,000 square feet.

“It’s much lower density” but “complementary,” he said. “It’s a different vibe.”

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