“A factory that produces Snickers, M&Ms, Milky Way bars, Twix and Skittles will soon close and could potentially become an official city landmark. The Mars Wrigley factory in Austin’s Galewood area, 2019 N. Oak Park Ave., received a preliminary landmark recommendation from the Commission on Chicago Landmarks in early October.
“City staff said the 20-acre factory site fits the criteria of being a landmark based on its architectural design and for its heritage to the city’s history of candy making, being once dubbed ‘the candy capital of the world.’
“It’s the first step in a lengthy process toward keeping the 94-year-old Spanish Revival style factory intact for the community’s benefit after the factory ceases operations next year. Following a series of approvals, the landmark proposal would be reviewed by the City Council’s zoning committee and then go to a full City Council vote.
“‘Chicago has an extensive candy history that rivals any city in the world,’ Preservation Chicago executive director Ward Miller said. ‘This is a true West Side landmark and something to be honored.’
“The factory was once the headquarters of the now $45 billion Mars Wrigley company when operations moved to the city in 1929, city staffer Kandalyn Hahn said. The company and many other candy makers used Chicago as a staging ground for its operations due to the city’s railroad operations, Hahn said.
“During the mid-20th century, Chicago produced about a third of all candy manufactured in the country,’ Hahn said. ‘This is one of the last surviving candy manufacturing cities in Chicago. Next year will mark nearly a century of candy making history.’
“Mars announced in 2022 it would close the Austin factory in 2024. The company has said it is willing to cede the factory and garden to the neighborhood for a new use, which could include housing, a museum, a library and more.
“Miller said he is sad the factory will shut down and take roughly 300 jobs with it, but he is happy to see the city preserve the city’s West Side and candy history.
“‘There’s something critically lost in a closing like this. It truly feels bittersweet,’ he said. ‘Overall, everyone is happy that they’re leaving on a high note and giving this land to the community.’ (Arline, Block Club Chicago, 11/3/23)
Preservation Chicago has been an active advocate for a preservation-oriented direction since the closure was first announced in January 2022. We attended many public meetings to articulate the preservation option, closely support neighborhood preservation partners, discuss the benefits of historic preservation, and provide expertise regarding the landmarking process. The Mars factory community meetings were well run, well attended, and provided the opportunity to build strong, nearly universal support for the historic preservation for the 1929 building and other historically significant structures. We applaud this Chicago Landmark Designation as this will ensure an excellent outcome post-restoration and adaptive reuse.
- Austin’s 94-Year-Old Mars Candy Factory Could Become City Landmark; A key city committee granted preliminary landmark status for the building’s architectural design and its contribution to Chicago’s history of candy making, Trey Arline, Block Club Chicago, 11/3/23
- Sweet move: Chicago seeks to landmark West Side’s historic Mars candy factory; The correct action here would be a “yes” vote from the Commission on Chicago Landmarks, an important prelude to the factory’s redevelopment, Chicago Sun-Times Editorial Board, 10/2/23
- Preliminary landmark approved for Mars Candy Factory; The factory will be shuttered in 2024 after opening in 1929, Lukas Kugler, Urbanize Chicago, 10/11/23
- West Siders settle on plan for redeveloping Mars factory; Community members agree that a mixed-use development would be best for the factory after it closes in 2024, Jamie O’Toole, Austin Weekly News, 11/11/22
- Mars Chocolate Factory Closure Could Mean A New Library, Gym Or Nature Center For West Side Neighborhood; Mars Wrigley plans to donate the historic factory to the community when it closes the facility in 2024. Residents are working with the company to plan for how the building will be used, Pascal Sabino, Block Club Chicago, 4/20/22
- Mars Wrigley closing nearly century-old chocolate plant on Chicago’s West Side, Robert Channik, Chicago Tribune, 1/25/22
- Neighbors sour over closing of historic Mars Wrigley factory: ‘It was divine’’; The factory will be phased out over the next two years, the company announced this week. The future of the building remains unclear, as does the fate of its 280 workers, Josephine Stratman, Chicago Sun-Times, 1/27/22