The 4.25 acre riverfront Morton Salt industrial campus will be adaptively reused by developer R2 Company, which recently purchased the property from Morton Salt Company. The 86-year old, Chicago-based Morton Salt Company shuttered the salt storage and packing facility in 2015, but will rent 20,000 of the total 120,000 rentable square footage of the completed redevelopment. To be renamed the “Salt District”; the redevelopment will include offices, restaurants, retail and entertainment.
The iconic and highly visible “When it Rains it Pours” Morton Salt Umbrella Girl sign painted on the roof of the warehouse building will be preserved as part of the new development, as well as to the small masonry building to north.
According to Matt Garrison, R2 Managing Principal, the north side buildings, where melting salts and other bulk salts were once transported by barges and piled high using giant conveyor belts, will be converted to a wide variety of new uses. The mix could include a brewery, restaurants, offices, indoor and outdoor festivals and markets, concerts and other entertainment. R2 plans to have a water taxi stop and kayak launch on the site, connected to a new riverwalk area. (Ori, Chicago Tribune 1/5/18)
For generations, the Morton Salt site on Elston Avenue has been part of the fabric of Chicago,” Morton Salt CEO Christian Herrmann said in a news release. “It is with that long, rich history in mind that we decided to explore a wide range of possibilities for the future of our iconic site. We knew it was ripe for redevelopment, and we took great care to find the right firm to help bring our vision to life. This redevelopment plan represents the next chapter of the Morton Salt story in Chicago — and we’re incredibly proud to be part of the past, present and future of the Elston Avenue site.” (Ori, Chicago Tribune 1/5/18)
Preservation Chicago applauds both developer R2 Company and Morton Salt for their appreciation of the site’s history and for their recognition that the existing historic industrial buildings add a layer of interest, authenticity, character and quality that will make the finished redevelopment more successful. Unlike the redevelopment of the former Finkl Steel Site, where the existing buildings were demolished (Chicago 7 2015), the value of the historic buildings at Morton Salt are being appreciated and embraced.
Additionally, it is important to note that zoning plays a major role in defining, directed, and planning the redeveloped boom along the North Branch of the Chicago River. Since the Chicago City Council passed zoning changes that allowed non-manufacturing uses along 760 acres of the former industrial along the Chicago River’s North Branch, many significant, large-scale redevelopment plans have emerged. Zoning is an essential planning tool that must be used wisely both to promote smart development and protect historic assets.