Chicago > Meat

From Katherine Desjardins
March 28, 2012
re; Sterling Bay proposed re-development of Fulton Market Cold Storage Warehouse

Dear Alderman Burnett and Martha Goldstein,---

It was a pleasure to meet you both last night at the community discussion of Sterling Bay's plans for the Fulton Cold Storage Facility.

I'm hoping my comments last night weren't misconstrued as knee-jerk anti-development. On the contrary!

My husband (who is a composer) and I came to Chicago in 2007 from New York/Boston and chose to buy our place in the Fulton Market District neighborhood because of its vibrant mix of industry and culture--both "grit and glitz"-- and we are committed to the 'hood for the long haul.

Much is said about the importance of imagination in the context of coming up with creative solutions to complicated problems. As an artist (and arts educator) this is my way of life. I am honestly unable to consider this important change to the cultural fabric of our neighborhood without thinking about it in terms of an AMAZING opportunity for all interests involved to come together to INVENT an unprecedented solution that is a win-win for all.

With all due respect, the current Sterling Bay proposal, as presented last evening, feels sterile and lacking in imagination. This is exactly where the importance of community input comes in: Thank you for providing our community with a platform for contributing feedback that can help adapt the proposal to the real exigencies of our neighborhood.

As an artist, it is my experience that all projects start with a vision that functions as a catalyst for change and invention into something new. I'd like to offer you here an "artist's vision" of the creative potential for the Sterling Bay proposal. This is not intended as a plan--only an attempt on the part of a concerned member of the community to contribute to future discussion of this project.

Food for Thought: A Creative Vision for Sterling Bay's Proposed Re-development of the Fulton Market Cold Storage Warehouse (as presented by SB to our community on 3/27/12).

"If you can dream it, you can do it." - Walt Disney

The historical importance of the Fulton Market neighborhood---for both Chicago and the nation-- should be honored and echoed as the neighborhood develops and changes. The Fulton Cold Storage Building is not only the physical epicenter of our neighborhood, it is also a symbol of the great historic role that Chicago has played as the center of food distribution for our country (and by extension, the world). Development of this site should pay lasting tribute to this. At present, Sterling Bay's proposed project for conversion of this site to office space seems to eradicate history--rather than work with it. We lose a part of what makes this city great when we choose to eradicate rather than to incorporate its history as we move forward.

First of all, let's be clear: Yes to office space, and yes to jobs and all the other positive benefits to our community that redevelopment of existing sites can bring, as discussed last evening. I am concerned, however, about the impact of the conversion of this site upon the existing food service companies that contribute to the vitality of the neighborhood--and the economy. Why must these companies be obliterated in the name of development? This is a big issue. My "vision", as outlined below, does not require the obliteration of existing food industry businesses in our neighborhood. Rather, this is a vision of vital and important co-existence--and recognition-- that incorporates new development, yet allows continuity of vital existing commerce to thrive--and be celebrated--in the area.

Specifically, please consider the following as a contribution toward a creative alteration to Sterling Bay's proposed project for re-development of the Fulton Cold Storage Facility:

Imagine a large, European-style "Open-air" market--open to the public--to occupy the entire first floor of the building. Just as in the grand, historic, public markets of Europe (think Italy, Spain and France) the Fulton/Hasak Open Air Market would operate as a neighborhood hub: a place of commerce, activity, and congregation.
Food industry workers, computer geeks, tourists, locals--Chicagoans rich and not so rich--would find pleasure and a meeting ground in this vibrant market location.

The market: high-end organic and specialty food sellers (including and similar to some of Chicago's current outdoor farmers markets) would sell side by side with wholesalers (who historically had/have shops on Randolph) who would cater to customers who are on a tighter budget, and can't afford the high-end stuff. (This is a European model/by extension Chicagoan: all-inclusive and inviting to the entire range of socio-economic/cultural diversity, which makes Chicago so vibrant and unique.

Restaurants!! Ethnic food courts!! (Think: Chelsea market, NYC) (Why not ask Mario Batali to set up a Chicago branch of "Eataly", his wildly popular "open-air" market on the west side of NYC?). (Can you imagine the tourist draw to the neighborhood?)
Cafe tables, hustle bustle-a green courtyard behind the building where kids could run around-tons of tourists and real-life LOCAL CHICAGOANS intermingling. This is no Disneyland creation: It's real life.

Food Continued: How about a cooking school on a floor above the market? Master classes with local top chefs--but ALSO-- a cooking school/restaurant that serves to help disadvantaged citizens of Chicago get back on their feet?? (Top chefs Chicago I'm sure would jump at contributing to this cause..).
(Chicago's Oliver’s kitchen, for example--see below).

Oliver’s kitchen:
Farestart--example of culinary program:

Office space? Sure!! Google? Welcome!! But in addition:how about a branch of a local community college that offers computer-programming classes to disadvantaged youth? Imagine the difference it would make in the life of a kid in a computer class to have a conversation (over a sandwich) with a Google executive in the Fulton/Hasik market?
Example: Kendall College's bridge program:
Bridge program--computer training:

Other (why not?) ideas:
A Chicago (multi-cultural) "food history" museum--with maps that direct tourists from out of town to the great variety of ethnic neighborhoods in our city (hey: shuttle bus/food tours!!)

Offices for global food relief programs (a re-invention of Chicago's role as food basket to the world, in collaboration with area Universities/charitable entities--this is an actual on-going project in the works...).

Upper floor/Rooftop: Satellite Branch of the Chicago Cultural center or Museum of Contemporary Art?--like DIA New York--with rooftop cafe/performance space welcoming all to enjoy view from the west loops tallest building (the model would be European "Culturehouse"-open to public. See also DIA/NYC's rooftop Museum/cafe).

Finally: Please!! Leave the tower with the "FULTON MARKET" writing on it: A landmark and such a great testament to this neighborhood and the city.

..The rest is up to us as a community to shape the vision of our future....

Thank you for your consideration and I look forward to continued discussion.

Respectfully yours,
Katherine Desjardins

Food for Thought: A Creative Vision for the Development of the Fulton Market Cold Storage Warehouse in Chicago