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What the New Fulton-Randolph Landmark District Means for the West Loop

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Harry Carmichael

It's now official: the West Loop's Fulton Market neighborhood is the city's newest officially designated landmark district. On Wednesday, the Chicago City Council approved of the plan to designate a 72-acre area in the West Loop as the Fulton-Randolph Market Historic District. The area which has been historically been dominated by food distributors is quickly transforming into one of the city's hottest restaurant and nightlife destinations, as well as one of the city's hottest hubs for high-tech office space. To prevent the neighborhood from completely losing touch with its industrial past, the city stepped in last year with a plan to protect the area's inventory of historic brick warehouses from being razed or altered beyond recognition. However, the plan hasn't sat well with many business and property owners in the area, as the new landmark district limits what they can do with their buildings.

[The original rendering for the proposed Nobu Hotel and Restaurant. Rendering: Booth Hansen]

The timing of the landmark district plan was also controversial to many West Loop residents, as several major development proposals and deals were in the works when it was introduced. A plan to build a new 12-story Nobu hotel and restaurant at the northeast corner of Randolph and Peoria caused some concern among residents, not just for its size, but because it was being proposed right as the neighborhood was being considered for landmarking. In addition, developer Sterling Bay has many projects in the works in the area—with some being new construction and others being adaptive reuse efforts. Some business owners and West Loop residents fear that the city and local elected officials may be playing favorites towards these projects or developers. The former Fulton Market Cold Storage Building (now called 1K Fulton) is currently wrapping up construction to make room for tech giant Google and the Chicago-based bicycle component manufacturer SRAM. While Sterling Bay started work on the 1K Fulton project long before the Fulton-Randolph District was a thing, they have several other projects from the former Harpo Studios campus to the Fulton West development in the works.

More crucial Fulton-Randolph coverage:
Fulton-Randolph Historic District Receives Landmark Approval
Fulton Market Cold Storage Makeover Inching Closer to Completion
CAF Talk Covers Industrial Reuse and Future of Fulton Market
Fulton-Randolph Neighborhood to be Split Up Into Four Pieces?

However, at this point, the landmark district plan appears to be a done deal. In total, the plan will affect 142 properties over a 72-acre area. The breakdown includes 87 so-called "contributing" buildings, 44 "non-contributing" buildings and 11 vacant lots. The new landmark district also places limits on building elevations in order to preserve the area's character. At a Chicago Architecture Foundation event in March, Sterling Bay managing principal Andy Gloor indicated that the area's rough edges and industrial vibe is what attracted companies like Google in the first place. Gloor stated that Chicago's large inventory of old masonry buildings with large floor plates was a major strategic advantage in competing with other major metro areas to attract businesses. When taking Google execs on a tour of the Fulton Market area, one pulled Gloor aside and suggested that developers "don't sanitize the neighborhood."

[A map that details which buildings will be affected by the landmark district.]

·City Council gives final OK to landmark Fulton Market district [Tribune]
·Fulton Market Landmark Plan Clears Committee, With Two Exceptions [Curbed Chicago]
·Fulton-Randolph Historic District Receives Landmark Approval [Curbed Chicago]
·All previous Fulton Market coverage [Curbed Chicago]