Karl Heitman moved to the Chicago area from Texas in 1986, to design office development projects. The work was primarily for Trammell Crow Company, and the company was actively working in many Midwest cities and Canada. Heitman never expected to get into the industrial market, but the office market took a downturn in late 1980’s and he was just in the right place at the right time.
“Videojet was looking to build a multi-story corporate office building and an adjacent manufacturing plant in Wood Dale,” Heitman said, Pincipal/Founder of Heitman Architects Inc. “I designed a hybrid corporate / industrial building that created an upscale headquarter office using industrial components at a fraction of the cost of a typical corporate office building. That was a milestone project for me, and many of the people involved—Jim Mc Shane (McShane), Jeff Jacob (now Jacob & Hefner), Mike Sullivan (now Peak), Jim Brucatto (now Principal), and Jim Armbruster (ATMI).”
“Around that time; late 1980’s early 1990’s, we were designing the last remaining sites in Elk Grove, Bensenville and Wood Dale,” Heitman continued. “We then participated in developing industrial markets in Addison, Bloomingdale, Hanover Park, and Caroll Stream. I’ve been very fortunate to have great clients and great project partners.”
In 1987, Heitman had the opportunity to work with Mayor Roger Claar, Bill Gahlberg in lieu of Trammell Crow, and UPS Properties, to lay out Crossroads Parkway, and design the first three modern industrial buildings in Bolingbrook.
“That early development set in motion the I-55 Corridor, which eventually merged with the I-80 corridor,” he said. “The industrial epicenter which began around O’Hare, expanded southward from Elk Grove, Addison, to Caroll Stream, Bolingbrook, Romeoville, Joliet, Minooka and Morris, and Seneca at a rate of three miles per year. I was fortunate to play a role in that major industrial growth.”
Heitman has done some amazing things in his 20-year plus career, and said that due to Chicago being a United States epicenter for industrial growth, has had the chance to work closely with mostly all of the top industrial brokers, developers, general contractors, and institutional investors in the U.S.
“We have worked with many top Fortune 500 corporations on custom industrial build-to-suits,” he said. “Some of those include Nestles, 3M, BMW, Kellogg’s, Sony, Tellabs, and Sunstar. My firm’s growth with these great clients and project partners have taken us from Chicago to Allentown, Miami, Dallas, Reno, Los Angeles, and many points in between. Every project presents a new challenge. Working in the industrial sector is always fascinating, with every project you learn how everyday products are made, packaged, and distributed in our global “consumer” based world that we live in.”
So what sets Heitman Architects a part from the rest? In addition to having great clients, Heitman said his company has great staff, are motivated toward results, and are passionate about design.
“Our early focus on sustainability, and now in leveraging digital technology, is a team-minded value that sets us apart,” Heitman said. “As early adopters of the USGBC [US Green Building Council] we designed the first LEED Certified industrial building in Illinois for Anixter. We also designed the largest LEED CI Gold facility in US for Kraft Foods. Our focus on technology is based on industrial building applications using BIM [Building Information Modeling], and HDS [High Definition Survey (Laser Scanning)].”
“We are using Virtual 3D models that contain rich facility data that serves to integrate the AEC team during construction, and provides valuable facility management data post occupancy,” he continued. “The visualization capabilities allows our clients to experience our proposed building designs, fully immersed in “Virtual Reality” using “Oculus Rift” goggles, and “X-Box 360″ controllers.”
Heitman noted that receiving recognition as “NAIOP Chicago’s 2014 Design Firm of the Year” was clearly a high point of his 20-plus years in business as Heitman Architects.
“That validation from our peers, and project partners, meant a lot,” he said. “We are really fortunate to be involved in some very visible commissions. We are currently partnered with Summit DB and William McDonough + Partners on Method Soap, a brownfield redevelopment in Chicago’s Pullman District, which in McDonough’s words is a world class sustainable building “at the dawn of manufacturing in the ecological century”.”
“This LEED Platinum Facility will support manufacturing, bottling, and shipping of environmentally sustainable hand soap and dish soap products,” Heitman added. “The site will be powered by a 250′ tall commercial grade wind turbine. There are PV [Photo-Voltaic] Solar Panels over the parking, and there will be a roof-top farm on the roof. It will be the first fully automated roof-top farm under greenhouse in the United States.”
As far as Heitman’s expectations for the industrial industry in 2015, he said there seems to be an increase of activity that may reach pre-2009 levels.
“A lot of companies still have pent up demand based on normal growth requirements,” he said. “Confidence in market conditions is improving, and there is hope that things will be turning around for Illinois. Chicago is uniquely positioned as our nation’s largest inland port and there is a lot of increased activity in logistics facilities connected to rail or intermodal.”
Another trend due to transportation cost, Heitman noted, is that manufacturing in coming back.
““On-shoring” for light assembly, and “value-add” product enhancements is allowing for “speed-to-market” delivery of customized, made to order products that the next-generation consumer is demanding. This trend will continue to impact our industry with the need for new, more sophisticated industrial buildings.”
Overall, Heitman says that the Chicago industrial real estate market is really a small world. “There are multiple layers of connectivity. It’s been a great place to be, and we are experiencing a great time for new growth and new service offerings.”
Heitman is a very busy man, but tries his best to not bring his work home, as he’d rather spend time with his family. “My wife Joy, of 37 years, our four children, and our four grandchildren.”
He also enjoys spending his down time sailing and life drawing. “Travel is also a passion of mine,” he said. “One day I’d like to travel to experience Machu Picchu in Peru.”
Heitman’s favorite song of the moment is Beethoven’s 9th. “I love classical music, although I can’t sing or play an instrument. My wife was a music major, and my daughter is in vocal performance as a Mezzo Soprano.”
An interesting fact about Heitman? “I’m very competitive and love the chase to close a deal,” he said.
“During college, I raced sailboats competitively and participated in North American Championships, and Olympic trials, on “Flying Dutchman” class boats.”