Elevating the Industry: Andy Gloor
For anyone who works in commercial real estate, it’s no secret the neighborhood known for its meat packers and industrial chic is about to boom. Google and bicycle manufacturer SRAM are gearing up to call the area known as Fulton Market home. Others are following suit, making this location one of the most actively evolving sectors in the downtown Chicago market.
As more tenants head west to take advantage of its commercial and residential offerings —what challenges are ahead for the neighborhood that’s used to flying under the radar? Andy Gloor, managing principal of Sterling Bay Companies explains.
EL: Why is the Fulton Market area becoming an attractive option for commercial real estate?
AG: I think people are attracted to its authenticity. Personally, the buildings remind me of Chelsea Market in New York City’s Meatpacking District. The neighborhood is kind of messy but it’s genuine and pedestrian-friendly. A lot of tenants are looking for large floor plates and the neighborhood offers a very unique building stock. It’s close to the Loop, but its real allure is the residential amenities. People can live in this neighborhood and when they leave work, they can walk to great local restaurants. There’s something less sterile about this neighborhood and I think people are realizing that more options are available.
EL: Why did it take so long to catch on?
A few years ago, many didn’t know this neighborhood existed, or they recognized it as a dining destination. Any urban area that is primed for office space needs public transportation and this area’s lack of transportation was holding it back. When the city completed the new Morgan Street Green/Pink Line Station, it stimulated interest and really accelerated growth. The restaurants have been here and now developers are working to fill in the gaps with office, retail and hotels.
EL: Is there a particular demographic or type of company that is drawn to this area?
I think the simplistic answer would be that Millennials and tech firms will dominate this area, but the ability to mix commercial with residential amenities is very attractive to a range of companies. Law firms are considering this area. My father’s generation thought you had to stay in the Loop, but today’s decision makers and my peers look at it differently—even traditional companies who would normally stay downtown are considering locations they would not have considered ten years ago.
EL: One of the more high-profile projects in the area is 1KFulton. What possessed you to purchase a building that was formerly a cold storage facility?
Honestly, we tried buying this building for five years. I liked it—it had unobstructed views of the city. I always thought it had the potential to be a cool office building where people could work where they live and hang out in their own neighborhood. It doesn’t appeal to everyone but companies like Google really get it and they’ve made similar moves in New York and San Francisco. The co-founder of SRAM lives a few blocks away, so he understood the appeal right away.
EL: What kinds of amenities are going to attract tenants to this area?
Again, transportation is huge. The new El station is a block away, and a handful of DIVVY stations are within a few blocks as well. 1KFulton is going to offer shuttle service to and from Union Station and Ogilvie. We’re seeing less emphasis on parking and we’re focusing on bike storage. Our storage area will hold up to 1,000 bikes on any given day. Many end-users will choose to ride their bikes year round—even in the winter months. Employees want to bring their pets to work. This was a huge point for Google, so we’re creating a pet-friendly environment. Outdoor space and easy access to restaurants and retail are other amenities that we’ll offer. Our retail and restaurant choices will be unique and local—that’s what will fit in with the neighborhood and our clientele.
EL: Speaking of unique – how is this neighborhood going to keep its edge and develop into a major business hub over the next few years?
I think a lot of people are comparing this neighborhood to what River North was ten years ago. It’s a little true in the sense that there will be more hotels and retail – but this area definitely has its own character. It’s transitioning from manufacturing to commercial. I think some of the manufacturers and meat packers will still call this area home, and that will help retain its original appeal. All of the restaurateurs love that locals hang out here, but I’m not sure how anyone will stop all of the momentum. In the end, I think it will be an authentic and really convenient place for people to live, work and play.
EL: Obviously adaptive reuse projects such as 400 South Jefferson and 1KFulton are very challenging. Is it a personal passion?
Absolutely. There are always surprises. Considering 1KFulton was frozen, we didn’t know what we were buying and we really didn’t know what kinds of unforeseen conditions we’d run into when we started construction. But we focus on modernizing buildings and we concentrate on the architectural details that just don’t exist in new buildings. We like to remember what was there and represent it as opposed to changing it, whitewashing it and sanitizing it.
Sterling Bay Companies is a Chicago-based real estate investment and development company with expertise in the acquisition, financing, leasing, and management of commercial property across a broad spectrum of asset size and type. Founded in 1986, Sterling Bay focuses exclusively on commercial real estate investment and development.