The development at 1334 N. Kostner Ave., called The Terminal, is part of Mayor Lori Lightfoot’s Invest South/West initiative, which aims to bring economic investment to the South and West sides.
Development firm IBT Group is behind the project. The developer plans to convert a cluster of three old warehouses, the longtime home of lighting and electrical equipment manufacturer Pyle-National Co., into a 240,000-square-foot, 6.9-acre campus for “creatives, makers and innovators.”
The development team has said it hopes to lure tech and creative companies to the industrial campus as rents rise in booming Fulton Market and similar neighborhoods.
The project, which is being funded exclusively by private dollars, has the strong support of Lightfoot, Ald. Emma Mitts (37th), who represents West Humboldt Park, and Planning and Development Commissioner Maurice Cox, among other officials.
“The West Humboldt Park/Austin area I think is already trending up,” billionaire investor Joe Mansueto said at Monday’s ground-breaking ceremony. “Hopefully this development will be a catalyst for other similar developments and help take that to another level.”
If everything goes according to plan, the development will be completed about two-and-a-half years from the start of construction, according to IBT Group, which is working to obtain a city building permit.
In a news release, Mitts said, “The Terminal is going to help change the landscape of the neighborhood, erase the emptiness of these vacant lots and help transform the area.”
Lightfoot said Monday the project builds on the city’s commitment to revive South and West side communities that need investment the most.
“I have a vision, but I have a passion to make sure that people in these neighborhoods who haven’t seen a dime of investment for decades also are respected, also are heard, because that is what truly will make us a great global city,” Lightfoot said.
Not everyone favors the project.
Some residents, including members of the community group Nobel Neighbors, have raised concerns. They contend IBT hasn’t solicited enough community feedback for such an ambitious development, which could drastically change property values in the neighborhood. They also fear the work could usher in gentrification.
The project does not require a zoning change and therefore does not need the approval of Mitts or neighborhood groups to move forward.
Asked about neighbors’ concerns Monday, Lightfoot said, “I don’t know the particulars of that, but I know through work with Ald. Mitts that there will be plenty of opportunity for the community to be involved, to get jobs, and I’m excited that this building, which has essentially been vacant for a long time, will be repurposed in a way that is really going to serve the community.”
The buildings, which date to the turn of the 20th century, were home to Pyle-National for decades.
The lighting company moved into the buildings in 1916, where it manufactured headlights and other lighting and electrical equipment for railroad use, as well as exterior lighting for prominent buildings like the Wrigley Building, Tribune Tower, Soldier Field and the Rose Bowl.
It’s unclear exactly when Pyle-National moved out of the buildings, but the development team said it was likely sometime in the 1960s. When IBT took over the property, a used furniture business was operating out of the buildings.