“Adhering to Chicago tradition, Bruce Finkelman is making no small plans for the Salt Shed. The former Morton Salt complex in West Town is being transformed into a performance venue and had its first outdoor concerts this week, the first Tuesday and Fleet Foxes Wednesday. Andrew Bird and Iron & Wine are scheduled for Aug. 12.
“Finkelman is the managing partner of 16″ on Center — the hospitality group behind the project — and seeks to ‘change how people go to concerts’ with the new venue. Though many parts of the reported $50 million renovation remain months away from completion, the space on display at the soft opening suggested Finkelman’s goals are within reach. There is nothing like the Salt Shed in Chicago.
“Located directly across from Goose Island and framed on the east by the North Branch of the Chicago River, the Salt Shed occupies a 4.2-acre site that’s long been a distance marker for anyone headed downtown along the Kennedy Expressway by train or car. The warehouse roof’s iconic Morton Salt sign originally caught Finkelman’s attention when he was a kid traveling in the back seat of his parent’s car. Its mystique held sway when he returned to Chicago after college and later, along with partner Craig Golden, became one of the entrepreneurs behind staples such as Thalia Hall, Revival Food Hall and the Promontory.
“‘The idea of adaptive reuse with the Morton Salt complex was very appealing,’ said Finkelman. ‘We wanted to turn it into something for the neighborhood and community.’
“As a manufacturing complex and warehouse for salt built in the 1920s, the buildings along the river were occupied by Chicago-founded Morton Salt from their construction until 2015, and sold in 2017. Zoning for their adaptive reuse was approved last year.
“One visual in particular is impossible to miss: a panorama of the Chicago skyline. The striking perspective — and the nearer-sighted activities of kayakers and boaters making their way on the river — underscores Finkelman’s belief that Salt Shed symbolizes ‘the epicenter of the city.’ It’s another reason he and his partners preserved every detail they could.
“‘Early on we could’ve scrapped it all and put up a new building,’ Finkelman said. “Doing that would’ve been cheaper, easier and faster. But that’s not what we want. You pay homage to the Morton legacy. You have to see how it all fits into the history of Chicago.’
“The conveyor-belt mechanisms, truck weighing scale, steel frameworks and loading areas that punctuate the exterior space hint at the architectural elements that await patrons once the interior facility opens later. On a tour, Finkelman pointed out stretches of refinished hardwood floors comprised of two-by-fours turned on their side to support crushing weights; sliding fireproof metal doors; beefy columns and beams once coated with white salt powder; the remains of an enormous Erie City Iron Works boiler complete with an intimidating cluster of fire tubes and heat-charred bricks; exposed brick walls; and soaring ceilings.” (Gendron, Chicago Tribune, 8/3/22)
The Salt Shed, Chicago’s Newest Music Venue, Opens Next Week At Morton Salt Site Along North Branch; Concerts outside the development along the Chicago River will run through September. The indoor venue is expected to open early next year, Quinn Myers, Block Club Chicago, 7/28/22