Everyone Goes to Dinner in Fulton Market. But Will They Shop?

Being located in the West Loop, the view from our office windows has changed dramatically, even in the last year – the landscape is filled with cranes and alive with workers, pick-up trucks, and hard hats. Fulton Market has been booming since the Great Recession. Apartments and office buildings started popping up, joining the already established Randolph Restaurant Row. But non-restaurant retail didn’t follow – until now.

Fulton Market retail is at a tipping point. Ever since Google moved into the neighborhood, retailers have been flocking here. Warehouses that once held meat wholesalers are now holding boutiques and trendy national chains. Mugsy Jeans, Bespoke Club, and just recently Free People, have all moved to Fulton Market. Even the famed Anthropologie is on its way.

But to what degree retail will play a role in the full story of Fulton Market is yet to be seen. Rents are much higher in Fulton Market than Chicago’s more mature retail markets like Southport Corridor, Damen, and Armitage. Stores just don’t want to take the chance given the cost.

According to John Vance, Principal at Stone Real Estate, the big question is, “In this transitional retail environment, can you get desired retailers to make a big bet on Fulton Market?”

Many have been wanting the casual shopping stroll after dinner or post Sunday brunch, so in spite of the challenges, some developments are making the leap.


What’s Happening Now

816-820 W. Fulton Market & 216-226 N. Peoria - Announced in December of last year, Thor Equities will be transforming the John R. Morreale Meat buildings into a rehabbed mixed used development comprised of office and retail space. The New York firm also owns many other properties in the area, and brings the same sensibility to their Fulton Market properties that they bring to their New York Meatpacking District properties.

801-811 W Fulton - From the developers of SOHO House comes a completely new construction project with 80,000 feet of ground floor retail. It will stand right next to the iconic “Fulton Market District” sign, and will be built in the traditional Chicago warehouse building style, taking inspiration from the buildings around it so it fits right in and adds to the character of the area. Shapack is also developing many other Fulton Market properties, including more boutique hotels such as Hoxton and Ace Hotel.

800 & 810 W. Fulton - The longstanding Isaacson & Stein Fish Co. has sold its buildings to R2 Companies – and they’ve got big plans for them. They plan to renovate one of the buildings and demolish the other, and are expecting flagship retail for the property.


The Future

Google moving in caused a lot of changes to the area, and McDonald’s headquarters is sure to do the same. Fulton Market is no longer the simple meatpacking district it used to be. And if retail keeps coming in at the rate it is now, the area will certainly attract the “shopping” crowd.

Vance compared the area to Damen Avenue. It started out as a retail area with a lot of independent shops and a general feeling of authenticity in 2007, but as bigger and bigger retailers started coming in, it lost its character. He fears the same could happen to Fulton Market.

“Once you get enough national retail following, they drive the boom – until they change the trade area so much that the national retail almost erases the very cool vibe which is the exact vibe they were trying to attract,” Vance said.