The Chicago Plan Commission has approved the adaptive reuse of the former Morton Salt Warehouse Complex. Located at 1357 N Elston Avenue, the former manufacturing complex is bound by the north branch of the Chicago River to the east, N Elston Avenue to the west, and W Blackhawk Street to the north. Blue Star Properties is developing the project in collaboration with R2 Companies.
The scope of the project looks to complete exterior and interior alterations to the complex, which will potentially receive landmark status. Originally designed by Graham, Anderson, Probst, and White in 1930, salt company Morton Salt occupied the building from its original construction until 2015. It processed salt that was mined in Michigan, which was then distributed within the Chicagoland area.
Designed by Lamar Johnson Collaborative, the adaptive reuse and renovation of the complex will hold multiple tenants with several uses. The developers are seeking to rezone the property from M3-3, Heavy Industry District, to C3-3, Commercial, Manufacturing, and Employment District. It will ultimately be zoned as a new Planned Development.
The packaging buildings are one and two stories tall on the north end of the site. The project will replace the existing windows and doors and reopen the bricked up windows and door. Select new window openings will be resized for light and ventilation requirements. A new canopy will be added over the loading dock. Morton Salt will have an R&D facility within these buildings. The garage buildings will have their windows and garage doors replaced, with closed-up doors reopened.
The Salt Shed building is proposed to hold a music and event venue. The freestanding garage building will hold a food and beverage retailer. The packaging buildings will be converted to office and complimentary commercial use.
For the shed building, multiple changes will be made. The rail car lean-to, that was added in 1994, will be removed. The existing transite panel roof surface will be replaced with insulated roof panels with outward facing corrugations to mimic the corrugated steel. The existing transite is at the end of its life and cannot be replaced due to asbestos in the material. The painted sign will be replicated on the new roof system. Original wall openings will be infilled and new openings for windows will be made.
The east shed building was demolished with city permits as it was substantially deteriorated. The demolition exposed concrete walls on the west shed building. A proposed addition to the shed building will be one story and will extend the entire length of the east elevation. The floor line aligns with the eaves of the existing roof, and the addition will be supported by steel columns rising from grade. The addition will be covered by a roof extending from the east slope of the existing roof. The interior will enclose a hallway to access the raised box seating for the entertainment venue. The shed will include a series of open balconies for views of the Chicago River.
The converted shed will preserve the exposed steel structure, overall volume, and industrial character of the interior. Floor plans show that the south end will hold the performance stage and two stories of backstage space. The northern end will be occupied with three stories of sloped seating, while the center will remain open.
The $30 million project will need to consider parking solutions because of the venue space included in the project. The proposal calls for 17 parking spaces located along N Elston Avenue at the edge of the site but the developer will need to gain approval for extra off-site parking spaces. If the site located north of the complex along the water is chosen, that would require another Planned Development approval due to its proximity to the Chicago River.
The nearest public transportation is the Route 70 CTA bus, accessed at the Division and Elston stop, a five-minute walk away from the site. The Division CTA L station, serviced by the Blue Line, is a 13-minute walk away.
The development will require zoning approval as well as final approval pending the required off-site parking solution. An official timeline for the project has not been announced.