UPTOWN — Neighbors working for years to open the Chicago Market co-op in a historical Uptown building have received a major grant that will help make their project a reality.
Chicago Market has been awarded $5.2 million from the Chicago Community Development grant program, a pandemic-recovery effort aimed at boosting local business districts.
The grant funding will help Chicago Market move to the construction phase of a co-op project that has been in the works since 2014, said Matthew Ruffi, Chicago Market’s board president.
“We get to move forward, which is great,” Ruffi said. “It allows us to kick into high gear.”
With the funding, Chicago Market is about halfway to securing its nearly $12 million budget to turn the historic former Wilson “L” station house at Wilson Avenue and Broadway into a co-op grocery store and cafe.
The group has already raised $1.6 million with the help of its 2,200 members, which is one of the largest co-op groups in the country, Rufi said. Now, they can look to banks to secure the final loan needed to begin work on the store.
Work on the building will start late this year or early 2023 with an estimated opening day in late 2023, Ruffi said.
News of the grant comes after years of fits and starts for the co-op group.
Chicago Market launched 8 years ago, seeking to bring a co-op grocery store to Uptown.
The group in 2017 signaled its desire to set up in the Gerber Building, a Jazz Age building that was built as a Red Line station house and renovated that same year. Among supporters of the plan was Ald. James Cappleman (46th), who is a member-owner with the co-op.
Chicago Market signed a lease for the Gerber Building in 2018. In 2020, the co-op’s board voted to end that lease, saying the building’s size and configuration might be too costly. The CTA, the Gerber Building’s landlord, said it would renegotiate the co-op’s lease.
Chicago Market then commissioned a feasibility study that confirmed the grocery store could successfully operate at the location.
All the while, the group continued to fundraise and sign up member-owners. It applied for funding through the local tax incremental financing (TIF) district. Eventually, the group learned it was selected to receive funding through the new pandemic recovery effort, which is partially funded through the TIF district.
“To have that vote of confidence by the city, to have that movement forward, is a huge thing,” Ruffi said. “It’s really exciting to be taking the next step.”
Plans call for a roughly 10,000-square-foot grocery store that will have a full line of groceries, prepared foods, a cafe and a downstairs community room.
Chicago Market has already hired a general manager and hosts events including art fairs and a farmers market. It is continuing with its membership campaign. It is seeking to have 3,500 owners by the time it opens late next year, Ruffi said.
“Every time we activate the space, we get really excited,” he said. “Nothing will be as exciting as when we open the space as a grocery store co-op.”
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