If you've walked or driven past the Gerber Building in the last couple of months, you've probably noticed something: Construction on Chicago Market has not yet begun. Our project has faced a number of serious challenges over the past six months, and we'd like to share them with you. We believe that there is a light at the end of the tunnel, but it will require understanding, commitment, and the ability to, if necessary, adjust our plans. We are as committed as ever to doing everything possible to get Chicago Market open.
To cut right to the heart of the issue: In consultation with our professional consultants, and after a lot of very intense deliberations, the Board identified some challenges that very much concerned us about the Gerber Building as our site and the project as a whole. These included:
Operational Feasibility. Our expert consultants, after a detailed look at our construction plans and the building's shape and layout, were very concerned about the costs of operating the store in that space, and how this adversely affected the project's financials.
Environmental Concerns. The building requires significant environmental remediation (including water damage and potential damage to the structure) in order to house our store, and it was not clear that the CTA would be willing to pay for those repairs in a way that was feasible for our purposes.
Funding Concerns. While, thanks to Owners, we successfully raised more than $600,000 in Owner loans, that was far short of our goal, which left a significant gap in our funding plan.
Organizational Capacity. Building a massive business like this on volunteer labor is, to put it mildly, an exhausting and overwhelming proposition, and the rate of attrition among the Board had become a problem.
Accordingly, in February of this year, the Board of Directors of Chicago Market made the very difficult decision that the Gerber Building was not a viable site for Chicago Market. Since all of us (Board and Owners) had put an enormous amount of time, energy and money into this site, that was a really hard decision to make.
However, somewhat to our surprise, when we approached the CTA and their real estate representatives with our decision to pull out of the lease, they offered Chicago Market significant assistance and the opportunity to revise our lease and our construction timeline in order to keep the project going. We are still in the process of negotiating with the CTA, and there is no guarantee that even their revised offer will be viable, but we are hopeful. They have expressed a real commitment to making this project a success, though that is no guarantee that an agreement will be reached.
We are still involved in these negotiations, so we can't discuss all of the specifics - the most important thing is to emphasize that Chicago Market is very much alive and kicking. These difficult times make it clearer than ever how important local, sustainable sources of food, based in our own communities are, and we are more committed than ever to bringing that to you.
In addition, we are looking forward to having individual conversations with many of you, either by email or by other means, and keeping everyone informed about our plans and progress. Chicago Market is a democratically-run organization, which means that in order to overcome the challenges we face, our community will need to pull together by volunteering, funding, and taking on leadership roles to make this project happen. We'll share more information in the coming weeks, but if you have ideas on how your skills might help our Co-op, please reach out. We need to come together as a community now more than ever.
We wish all of you safety and good health, and thank you for being part of our local food community.
Your Board - Anthony, Bob, Dana, Grant, Lee, Sofia
Read more at: Gerber Building Q & A