Chicago Market is thrilled to announce that we are welcoming two amazing architectural partners to our team!
Transforming a building into the “co-op of our dreams” will require deep architectural expertise, and our Site Selection & Architecture team established a concrete set of criteria by which to evaluate potential partners. As a result, we have selected two architectural firms to work collaboratively in helping us to evaluate sites, design and build out our store.
Chicago Market Owner # 148 and writer Annette Mambuca sat down with the principals of one of these new partners, Wrap Architecture. Cheryl Noel, AIA, LEED A.P. and Ravi Ricker, AIA, LEED Associate joined her for a discussion of co-op ownership, sustainability, community-building, responsible food production, the architectural process… and what it means to be equipment nerds.
Chicago Market: First off, let’s establish for Chicago Market readers that you are indeed Owners.
Cheryl: We absolutely are! Responsible food production is something we feel strongly about. My sister has been an organic farmer for a long time, so we understand what goes into it from that perspective. And we especially love the co-op’s mission – particularly about giving Owners the opportunity to be involved in decision-making. We became Owners as soon as we heard about it through mutual friends of Dan Miller, who is on the Board.
Chicago Market: Your website says your firm “strives to cultivate space that embraces, encourages and empowers the people who occupy it.” Is that where the name “Wrap Architecture” came from… this desire to enfold the residents and users of the buildings you design?
Ravi: In a word, Yes. Cheryl and I both started our professional careers in community development and affordable housing, working closely to improve the quality of people’s lives through structures.
An interesting fact most people don’t know is that architects aren’t even involved in much of the built environment, they design less than 2% of the houses built. We think it’s a privilege to give people who normally wouldn’t have access to an architect – like public housing residents – the opportunity to have a well-designed structure that is responsive to human needs. That’s one of our founding principles.
Chicago Market: That’s a perfect segue to talk about what’s in store for Chicago Market. How might the co-op “embrace, encourage and empower” its Owners and other shoppers?
Cheryl: It’s definitely not going to be just another grocery store! From the beginning, we’ve been excited about the co-op’s vision for the site to be a gathering space that’s responsive to shoppers’ multiple needs. For local quality foods, of course, but also for human contact, for meaning, for sustainability and for community.
So our approach will be “What is unique about Chicago Market, and how can we hold that vision and guide the Board and Owners through the decisions that will get us there?”
Chicago Market: That’s a huge question. What’s the starting point?
Cheryl: We like to get involved in projects early, which is why it’s great we were chosen just as the Board is deciding on the actual site. We believe we can add value to that critical decision, and we look forward to making a contribution.
Ravi: With regard to Chicago Market’s Site Selection & Architecture team, Cheryl and I have both been very impressed with how savvy it has been, and how holistically they’ve approached the site-selection process. We've been in situations where clients make site decisions that were untenable, largely because they didn’t consider zoning laws, permits, existing use or parking. Fortunately, this team has been on top of all those contingencies.
Chicago Market: As we understand it, you’ll be working collaboratively with a second firm; one aspect of the site you won’t be doing is the store layout. Why is that?
Cheryl: Working with consultants and experts who specialize in one area or another is common in architecture. In fact, Wrap has a team of consultants we regularly call on.
In the case of the co-op, our plan would have been to hire a store designer to work with us. But Chicago Market’s Board has also vetted another firm with deep expertise in co-op architecture, store design, health regulation and governance in a very competitive co-op market. This firm is from out-of-state though, and the Board wanted a local architectural partner. When the team raised the question of us working with another firm collaboratively, we were immediately open to it.
In fact, that gives us more time to devote to the Market’s vision of sustainable design. Ravi, do you want to speak to that?
Ravi: Sure. Wrap’s vision of sustainability isn’t about what big piece of technology we can throw at a project so we can say it’s ultra-sustainable. Our approach is to think about every design component and figure out how we can it more efficient.
Here’s an example. We were the architects for Revolution Brewing’s industrial plant. For their production processes, they needed a large walk-in cooler, which was housed inside this giant heated building. So we researched and designed a system for pulling in cold outside air during the winter for the walk-in cooler, and we used the waste heat from the brewing process to heat the building.
We have a lot of experience in this arena – and we’re really comfortable diving into complex technology and equipment options. We actually consider ourselves equipment nerds – which can really pay off in terms of energy savings.
Chicago Market: Any other nerd stories up your sleeve?
Cheryl: Well… I was particularly proud of these super-low-flow urinals we unearthed! The typical low-flow toilet uses about one gallon of water to flush. Sounds pretty good when you compare it to what older toilets use. But the ones we found take only 1 pint! Like Ravi said, we’re equipment nerds….
Chicago Market: What else made you want to pursue this project? Co-operative organizations – with Boards, Owners, community partners – can be much more unwieldy than clients with a single decision-maker.
Cheryl: Our interest was driven by some of the same reasons that caused Chicago Market to be interested in us. Things like caring deeply about the work we’re doing together…believing we’re making a difference…being community-sensitive…collaborative…and energy-conscious. These are just some of the values Ravi and I share with Chicago Market.
Practically speaking, we’ve spent our entire careers working with nonprofits and other communities of people to get the buy-in necessary to make a project successful. In our experience, that’s how you get great design. The key will be figuring out the best ways to gather feedback from Owners and other stakeholders as we go through the design process.
Ravi: At Wrap, we don’t have an aesthetic value we impose on our clients. By nature, we prefer collaboration, and we like to work with first-time business owners and entrepreneurs like Chicago Market. Ultimately, the goal is to create a dynamic community space that not only meets present needs, but also is designed to accommodate future plans.
Cheryl: Another piece that is appealing to us is that the Board sees their investment in developing Chicago Market, in part, as a model for other communities to replicate. Ravi and I are thrilled to be involved in this groundbreaking effort.
Watch for Part II of this article soon to meet our second new partner!
(And photo credits here with great thanks to Owner #3 Grant Kessler)