The historic and decaying clock tower at Damen Avenue and Pershing Road anchors Chicago's Central Manufacturing District.

Central Manufacturing District Focus of Development Proposal, Media Attention

Published July 8, 2016

The Center for Neighborhood Technology (CNT) and news media have spotlighted the Central Manufacturing District, a currently decrepit and underutilized set of city-owned buildings along Pershing Road adjacent to the McKinley Park neighborhood. In news reports and a CNT development proposal, the property receives scrutiny for its future development potential, as well as admiration for its storied history as a backbone of Chicago manufacturing.

"It’s exactly the kind of site that developers are increasingly repurposing into thriving centers of urban life and economic activity," the CNT study stated. "The site retains many of its original advantages: central location, solid construction, nearby rail connections, plus modern essentials like proximity to expressways and robust fiber optic capacity."

Business Grows Here - Space - Resources - Community

Business Grows Here - Space - Resources - Community

The CNT study, titled Chicago's Central Manufacturing District — The Past and Future of Urban Manufacturing, details the site's history and examines opportunities for creating a unified, manufacturing "Eco District" that spurs development of small- to medium-sized firms that sustainably share key manufacturing and business assets. The study is available online as a PDF file:

pdfChicago's Central Manufacturing District -- The Past and Future of Urban Manufacturing

According to the study, rebuilding the site for 21st Century manufacturing would require overcoming many obstacles, but it would offer many benefits, as has been realized in similar developments such as Industry City in Brooklyn, New York, and Chicago's Fulton Carroll Center. The study's leading recommendation is to focus the site on a dense network of related firms in one industry — possibly food production — to include incubator and post-incubator spaces, on-site training, and shared shipping, supply chains and research facilities.

The study is the result of a CNT-led series of Central Manufacturing District tours and workshops in November 2015 by leaders in community development, industrial real estate, freight handling, manufacturing incubation, workforce development and urban and regional planning.

The Chicago Tribune newspaper reported on both the study and other considerations for development in an article published July 7, 2016. Like the CNT study, the article also touched on issues related to gentrification if the properties are allowed to lie mostly vacant and unimproved: This commonly leads to residential and commercial development which does not offer as many neighborhood jobs and increases pressure on the area to gentrify.

Local news website The Chicago Dispatch has also recently focused on the Central Manufacturing District in its June issue. In an article containing many photos and lots of detail about the site's history, writer Susannah Ribstein's prose accompanies photography from Jes Farnum and Eric Allix Rogers.

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