WIN: City Issues Request for Proposals for Two Central Manufacturing District Buildings (Chicago 7 2014)

The City of Chicago Community Development Commission has issued a Request for Qualifications and Proposals for the redevelopment of two city-owned, massive Central Manufacturing District buildings as part of an international design competition sponsored by C40 Reinventing Buildings.

Prospective developers are required to submit their qualifications by May 4, 2018. The City will select a short list of developers by July 2018, and request that they submit development proposals by December 2018. The hope is to announced a winning proposal or propsals in early 2019.

Built by the U.S. Army in 1918, the massive warehouse buildings of the Pershing Road Central Manufacturing District are each over 500,000 square feet and were the largest concrete warehouses in the world when they were built. Because of their number and vast size, they were used by the U.S. military during the First World War, Second World War, and the Vietnam conflict. Over 40,000 people were employed in the buildings of the Central Manufacturing District.

For years, these buildings have sat vacant or mostly vacant because of the “functional obsolescence” of enormously wide floorplates square feet. However, building of this scale are a limited resource and have become highly sought after by some of the largest and most successful 21st century technology companies. As a result, these ultra-wide buildings are an important Chicago asset that must be protected and leveraged into attracting new companies to Chicago and the jobs that will follow.

“Long considered inefficient albatrosses, with too many large columns and not enough natural light, the buildings today are coveted by employers such as technology and creative firms. Wide floors allow firms to have hundreds, or even thousands, of employees together on one floor. Open layouts and abundant meeting areas are designed to promote collaboration”, according to Ryan Ori in his recent Chicago Tribune Article, In Chicago’s real estate market, ultrawide buildings are in vogue. Here’s why”.

In his article, Ori points to recent wide floor deals including Groupon’s headquarters in the former Montgomery Ward Chicago Avenue Warehouse Building, the ongoing development of the Old Main Post Office, the Merchandise Mart and the former Apparel Center, Google’s office in the Fulton Market Cold Storage Building, and the nation-wide pursuit to find a location and buildings large enough to accommodate Amazon’s second headquarters.

Preservation Chicago applauds the City of Chicago for moving forward with this Request for Qualifications and Proposals. This approach has proved successful with the Old Main Post Office and the Consumers and Century Buildings. We also wish to applaud the City of Chicago for recognizing the value of these historic buildings and for insisting that proposals include their redevelopment.

Preservation Chicago was responsible for the idea of creating a Central Manufacturing District National Register District and funded much of the historical research for this successful designation. The Central Manufacturing District has been a concern of Preservation Chicago and our preservation Partner, Landmarks Illinois, since it appeared on both organization’s endangered lists in 2014.

From RFQ posted on the Reinventing Cities website:

This site includes two six-story industrial buildings, built in 1918, and part of the historically significant Central Manufacturing District of Chicago. The site also has an adjacent parking lot and 1-story parking structure. The City of Chicago is open to a large variety of proposals that will revitalize this iconic site and contribute to the vibrancy of the McKinley Park neighborhood.

The Pershing Road site contains two historic six-story buildings, designed by architect Samuel Scott Joy and built in 1918, and a 160,000 square foot parcel with a parking lot and a one-story parking garage. The two industrial buildings, each over 570,000 square feet in size, are located within the historic Central Manufacturing District (“CMD”). The CMD, which was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 2015, was one of the country’s first planned industrial districts. The CMD was home to over 200 manufacturers, including such industrial giants as Wrigley, Spiegel, Westinghouse, and Goodyear.

The City of Chicago expects the winning proposal of the Reinventing Cities competition to add vibrancy to Chicago‘s southwest communities, particularly the McKinley Park neighborhood. While the City’s preference is for redevelopment of the entire site, bidders may also propose to reactivate only one or both of the historic six-story buildings. Proposals should enhance opportunities for Chicago‘s workforce and for nearby residential communities. The project should aspire to be carbon-neutral, while increasing the site‘s resilience to water events. The overall design of the project should relate positively to the site’s context, provide publicly accessible spaces, and engage visual interest from the street.

Additional Reading

In Chicago’s real estate market, ultrawide buildings are in vogue. Here’s why, Ryan Ori, Chicago Tribune, 1/9/18

This old warehouse: City courts developers for big McKinley Park buildings, Alby Gallun, Crain’s Chicago Business, 1/17/18

The CMD, The South Side’s other historic planned industrial community, a history by Susannah Ribstein with photos by Jes Farum and Eric Allix Rogers.

Pershing Road Buildings RFQ from C40 Reinventing Cities


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