WIN: Marshall Field’s Warehouse to Anchor Film Sound Studios

The Fields Studios on the Northwest Side / former Marshall Field’s Warehouse, 4000 W. Diversey Avenue, Photo Credit: Knickpoint Ventures

“Movie studios and production companies that need space in Chicago to shoot their next show will soon have a new option: the Fields Studios on the Northwest Side.

“Construction of the $250 million project at a former Marshall Field’s warehouse is underway, and its developer, New York-based Knickpoint Ventures, said today that the studios should open in the first quarter of 2024.

“The studios, which will include nine sound stages, will eventually employ 600 to 800 people and will improve Chicago’s standing as a destination for movie studios and production companies, said Zain Kolta, founder and managing partner of Knickpoint.

“‘This is a piece of infrastructure that the city and state really needed,’ he said. ‘We think it’s an incredible economic development tool.’

“Demand for studio space has surged over the past decade or so as Netflix, Amazon Prime and other content producers ramp up production to satisfy the ravenous appetites of binge-watching consumers. They can rent space at Cinespace and other studios in Chicago, but demand is outpacing supply, creating room for new studios. In South Shore, a group led by Derek Dudley, a producer of ‘The Chi’ television series, is building a film studio that also would employ hundreds of people.

“Though Chicago has been a popular destination for location shooting for a long time, it needs to catch up with cities like New York and Los Angeles on indoor studio production, Kolta said. With more studios, the city’s film production industry can employ more people who work on sets, a diverse workforce that includes camera operators, lighting technicians and makeup and wardrobe specialists.

“The Fields Studios are part of a much larger redevelopment of the former Marshall Field’s campus, a sprawling 1.5-million-square-foot complex at 4000 W. Diversey Ave. Some of the warehouse space at the property, now called the Fields, already has been converted into apartments and office space leased to tenants including Crate & Barrel and Federal Savings Bank.

“‘We’ve been in touch with basically every major studio in the U.S.,’ Kolta said. ‘The reception has been great. People love the design. They love the location.’ (Gallun, Crain’s Chicago Business, 5/22/23)

The Marshall Field’s Warehouse is located at Diversey Avenue and Pulaski Road on 22 acres. The 1.5 million square foot complex includes six concrete and red brick buildings. Adaptively reused in 2018, it was renamed The Fields.

“It’s a gorgeous building with 24-inch-round columns and 14- to 17-foot ceiling heights. We’re going to save as many of the original elements as we can. The building reeks of character.” said John McLinden, Hubbard Street’s Group founder and managing partner.” (Ori, Chicago Tribune, 1/12/18)

The building was originally built for the Olson Rug Company in 1928, This is also the historic site of the much beloved and missed Olson Rug Park and Waterfall built in 1935. This park featured an elaborate illuminated rock garden and 35-foot waterfall, which made it a popular Chicago attraction.

The waterfall and park were dismantled in 1970 after the site was sold to Marshall Fields in 1965. It was used by Marshall Field and later Macy’s until 2008. After a period of vacancy, it was sold for redevelopment in 2014.

During the period of vacancy, Preservation Chicago was actively working towards a preservation sensitive outcome. We had numerous meetings with former 31st Ward Alderman Ray Suarez when Macy’s announced they were closing the facility to encourage possible Chicago Landmark Designation and to consider an adaptive reuse of the site for residential and affordable housing within these immense fireproof buildings.

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