The Morton Salt warehouse and the larger-than-life “Umbrella Girl” logo painted on its roof are a familiar site to Kennedy Expressway commuters. But following a trend elsewhere along the North Branch of the Chicago River, the former industrial site is seeking revitalization through other uses.
Chicago developer R2 Cos. purchased the 4.25-acre property last month and has now revealed its plans for what it has dubbed the “Salt District,” including new offices, retail and entertainment. The buildings at 1357 N. Elston Avenue comprise more than 120,000 square feet of space.
Tentative plans for the site include 50,000 square feet of retail and an outdoor venue designed to host markets and festivals all year long. A new park along the 500-foot riverfront might eventually host river boat tours, a water taxi stop and/or kayak launch.
Another 30,000 square feet would be set aside for office use. Morton Salt would anchor this space, relocating its Elgin, IL-based research and development arm by 2020.
R2 plans to maintain the iconic rooftop as is. “The buildings are so interesting and iconic for Chicago that from day one we wanted to find a way to preserve the buildings,” said R2 managing principal Matt Garrison. “It’s a blank canvas, and we’re working with some of the most innovative operators in hospitality and events in Chicago to put something really unique in there.”
Dating to the 1920s, the warehouse was shuttered by Morton Salt in 2015 following operational efficiency efforts and a partial wall collapse that spilled salt onto cars at a neighboring dealership.