At the far western edge of the Fulton Market neighborhood, a towering remnant of the 19th century stands next to a glittering new structure.
The block-long building is an Archer Daniels Midland flour milling facility, which stretches from 1300 to 1350 W. Carroll Ave. between Elizabeth and Ada streets. The compound includes a handsome six-story brick building with a basketweave pattern along the top — the sort of loft that developers, businesses, and residents crave in Chicago's old industrial neighborhoods like River North, Printers Row, and Fulton Market. And there’s something more colossal heading west along the block: the complex's cylindrical storage towers, some about six stories high and some ten stories high.
Crain’s Chicago Business reporter Dennis Rodkin talks about the industrial history of the Fulton Market building and the neighborhood’s commercial real estate future.
The building is a remnant of Chicago's heyday as a stacker of wheat. Parts of the complex date to 1897, when it was built for BA Eckhart Milling, which was founded in the 1870s and later named for Bernard Eckhart.
Eckhart came to Chicago from Wisconsin in 1870 as an executive in a milling company, and four years later, left that firm to start a new one with a partner, whom he would eventually overtake and become the kingpin of the company. Its mills in Chicago and Lancaster, Pennsylvania, made him a very wealthy man.
In 1907, he built a large mansion in Lake Forest called Pinewold. He was also a civic leader — a member of the Illinois Senate for four years in the 1880s, one of the original funders of the Chicago Community Trust, an early patron of the Prairie School landscape designer Jens Jensen, and a board member at five Chicago banks.
If his grain storage towers are demolished, his name will last on Eckhart Hall, the math building at the University of Chicago, and Eckhart Park, which is a little less than a mile due north of the ADM site, at Chicago and Ada Streets.
Food processing giant Archer Daniels Midland has owned the plant since 1990. Then based in Decatur, the company bought the 2-acre site for about $14 million, according to the Chicago Tribune.
In 2014, ADM's headquarters moved to Chicago, and the building is now an operating industrial plant with about 60 workers. But in June, ADM announced plans to close the plant in 2019 and move production to a new facility it's building in downstate Mendota. n September, the agribusiness firm listed the Carroll Avenue property for sale.
A developing neighborhood
Fulton Market — once a scruffy meatpacking district with some lofts and galleries sprinkled in — is changing fast. And the change has reached the block next to the ADM facility.
Fulton West just opened in September in the 1300 block of West Fulton where the vacuum maker Dyson moved its U.S. headquarters from a River North location. The nine-story, 290,000-square-foot building represents the western march of development that has swept through the Fulton Market area.
The midwestern Google headquarters opened a few blocks east in 2015 in an old cold-storage building that was converted and expanded. The new McDonald's headquarters building, which is under construction on the former site of Oprah Winfrey's Harpo Studios, is about six blocks southeast.
Hot real estate
How hot is Fulton Market as a commercial real estate market? When the CTA opened its new Morgan Street Green and Pink Line station in May 2012, Fulton Market still looked as if it would mostly go residential, like the fast-growing West Loop area a few blocks south. But two years after the station opened, the CTA reported that there had been 15 demolition permits nearby in the first two years, compared to just one in the previous almost two-year period.
Businesses have left Fulton Market, but they were part of its old identity. Last year, Morreale Meats, founded in 1920 and one of the oldest meatpackers left in Chicago, sold its five buildings at the east edge of Fulton Market near Halsted for $36 million. It followed by a few months the sale of Isaacson & Stein Fish Company's two buildings nearby for $9 million.
ADM’s sale may signal a desire to cash in on the Fulton Market land rush. It's now zoned as a planned manufacturing district, and the Chicago Tribune reported, "meaning uses such as apartments, hotels and some types of retail are prohibited."
The site could hold about 457,000 square feet of space, according to Cushman & Wakefield, the commercial real estate brokers representing it. That's about as much as there is in the Wrigley Building.