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Come Along for a Tour of 1871's Recently Expanded Space

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Photo by Nick Fochtman

Poet Carl Sandburg famously dubbed Chicago as the hog butcher for the world, but the Windy City's heavy industry and famous meat packing corridors have given way to new high-tech startups and incubators. And if technology has become one of the city's most important economic drivers, consider the well-oiled 1871 to be a key component of Chicago's rebirth as a technology center. Located on the 12th floor of the famous Merchandise Mart, the organization, headed up by CEO Howard Tullman, is home to about 300 companies, eight incubators, three accelerators and a number of ventures. In addition to the startup companies that call 1871 their home, six universities have a presence at the space as well. 1871 recently expanded their space, adding 25,000 square feet for new incubators, thanks largely to a $2.5 million grant from the state. But they're not done growing just yet. During our tour, Tullman hinted that 1871 is looking to add an additional 25,000 square feet next year, bringing the total amount of space to 100,000 square feet.

The space is buzzing with activity, and features large open areas, as well as numerous private rooms for individual companies and multipurpose rooms for presentations, classes and events. Similar to Motorola's new headquarters in the Merchandise Mart, Gensler was tapped to lead the design duties and worked with 1871 staff on building out the space for its numerous companies, incubators, accelerators and educational institutions. Tullman tells us that 1,200 people come in and out of 1871 on a daily basis, and its space has been designed to be flexible and accommodate different uses — sporting modular fixtures and walls that can be moved and rearranged with a slight touch.

When 1871 formally opened its expanded space in October, Governor Pat Quinn made note that 1871 has been responsible for creating over 1,000 jobs in Illinois. It may be a drop in the bucket in contrast to the current unemployment rate, but at the rate that 1871 is expanding, there will likely be many more jobs to come. 1871 takes its name from the year that the Great Chicago Fire literally burned the city to the ground, and the organization has made its mission to see that technology becomes a major fixture in the economic rebirth of Chicago.

·1871 and Governor Quinn Unveil the 1871 Expansion Space [1871]
·Previous 1871 coverage [Curbed Chicago]
·Previous Curbed Inside features [Curbed Chicago]