Israel Idonije spent 10 years in the NFL—most of them with the Chicago Bears—terrorizing opponents’ offensive lines. Now he’s leading a different charge, spearheading the creation of a hub for philanthropic organizations.
FBRK Impact House is a membership-based work club that will unite grantors, entrepreneurs and innovators. Scheduled to open March 2020, the project will occupy three floors of 200 W. Madison, a 45-story building in Chicago’s Loop owned by Multi-Employer Property Trust.
The project is designed to be the world’s largest innovation-focused philanthropy center dedicated to serving and supporting grant makers, family foundations and impact investors. The 45,000-square-foot space will provide a community where charitable organizations can interact and work to build a stronger Chicago.
“How do we connect all of the entrepreneurs and philanthropies out there in a more meaningful way? We want to use Impact House as a bridge to connect, to unify and to really create one narrative,” Idonije said. “That’s what’s really exciting for me.”
Part of the vision is physical: a work lounge and restaurant will be located at street level, with membership access to the over 60 private offices, lounges, 15 conference rooms and amenities on the second and third floors. But the real impact will come from the connections that nonprofit organizations can make with each other, with funding sources and with the greater community.
FBRK Impact House has aligned with many prestigious organizations—all grantors—who will make up its inaugural community. The anchor tenants include The Field Foundation of Illinois, Woods Fund, United States Artists and Forefront. FBRK Impact House will be the new home for A Better Chicago, Chicago Public Library Foundation, Pillars Fund and Knight Family Foundation. Grant makers, family foundations and impact investors will also be able to join the FBRK Impact House community and take advantage of the numerous amenities and opportunities through an annual membership.
As FBRK Impact House evolves, all of the nonprofit organizations in the city will be comprised in a database that anyone can access, through which like-minded individuals and organizations can connect, donate, attend events or even unite to work together on a particular front. As a philanthropy incubator, FBRK Impact House will streamline the back end work that so many nonprofit organizations struggle with by combining resources so they can work more efficiently.
“It’s worked in technology, it’s worked in manufacturing, it’s worked in the food space,” Idonije said. “We know this model works.”
Idonije describes two drivers that propel charities forward: window work and engine work. As a celebrity and professional athlete, Idonije can show up at camp for 300 underprivileged kids, for example, and that would bring out the media to help amplify the message. But behind the scenes, the non-famous are doing the engine work—securing the field, writing grants, placing calls and numerous other duties.
“The engine work is hard work. It’s gritty, there are no cameras, there’s no one showing up. They’re fighting for people that can’t fight for themselves,” said Idonije. “There’s a real opportunity for FBRK Impact House to be the place that connects window work and engine work in a way that’s never been done before.”
FBRK Impact House partnered with Leopardo for construction, BOX Studio for architecture and design, as well as The Fifty/50 Restaurant Group. BentallGreenOak advised FBRK Impact House and tenant advisors Larry Serota, Cece Conway and Holly Bailey of Transwestern brokered the lease.
As ambitious as it is, this project is just one vertical in a larger effort. Last year, Idonije and former teammate Julius Peppers led a joint venture that acquired 2222 S. Michigan Avenue for $10 million. The plan is to redevelop the 115,000-square-foot Motor Row building into FBRK, a mixed-use co-working, restaurant, hospitality endeavor. That project is still on track, scheduled to open in 2021.
Not far away, RSTR at 1325 S. Michigan is addressing health and wellness through HiiT classes, strength training and other exercise classes. The three projects are part of a multi-pronged approach that will only grow and, Idonije hopes, create opportunities for Chicagoans to nurture themselves and others in mind, body, business and more.