Ten Giant Steps to Get to Opening Day of Chicago Market – Your Community Co-op

Now that we have the keys to the Gerber Building, it’s all systems GO!

So where, actually, do we “go” from here?

We turned to Chicago Market Board member and Site/Architecture Team leader Dan Miller (Owner #485, pictured with his wife Celeste)

to learn about the necessary steps in the design, architecture, construction and getting-operational process. Conveniently, he broke it down into 10 (not-so-easy-for-us-nonprofessional-types) steps. Let’s take a look.

STEP 1. Conceptual design. This was the work completed for the Gerber Building RFP application to show that the store will fit in the space approximately as we envision. ✔

STEP 2. Schematic design. During this phase, Wrap Architecture and FreshArc will work with our Site/Architecture Team, which includes three architects, to confirm the basic layout for the Co-op measured against our building program. A schematic design generally includes rough drawings of a site plan, floor plans and computer renderings of the space. Anticipated time frame for this step is 1-3 months.

STEP 3. Design development. Once the schematic is approved, it gets fine-tuned in the design development stage. Architects finalize the design, begin to specify materials and create a detailed site plan as well as floor plans and elevations. This step is also expected to take between 1-3 months.

STEP 4. Construction drawings and documents. Construction drawings contain all the information necessary for contractors to estimate the costs of the job and get the building built. Turning design development drawings into the super-detailed drawings necessary for permitting and actual construction will take 2-4 months.

STEP 5. Apply for building permits and bids from contractors. This step is fairly self-explanatory. Submitting the documents for both permits and bids – and receiving the approved permits and estimates – is expected to take 2-4 months.

STEP 6. Construction begins! Once we award the contract to a contractor, construction of the Co-op could take anywhere from 6-8 months. Wrap Architecture will be involved throughout the construction process – ably supported by Chicago Market’s Site/Architecture Team.

STEP 7. Interior fine-tuning. Now we’re getting super close! We anticipate that Wrap Architecture will take center stage during this step to make sure all the interior finishes, shelving and other product support is exactly as specified.

STEP 8. Staff training/stocking the store. The search for our Co-op General Manager will have been underway for several months, and we expect to have someone in place by about 6 months from opening. They'll get the staff up and running – and order and stock $1/2 million dollars of groceries and products for the opening.

STEP 9. Soft Opening. This is a test-run of how the store works with actual customers – most likely a subset of Owners. The soft open will help everyone on the Chicago Market team discover what processes need to be tweaked before we open the store to the general public.

STEP 10. Grand Opening! We don’t have a date for this yet, but we’ll be shouting it from the rooftops and across social media when the time comes, so stay tuned.


1. Of course, if you’ve ever been involved in a construction project, you know that things don’t always go exactly like you planned. Fortunately, experienced architects, designers and contractors expect the unexpected – and know how to deal with them.

2.  Many of the phases, particularly the drawing phases, will require CTA and City approval. 

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