- -In 1999, Chicago developers Paul Levy and Tony Augustine (Prairie Management & Development) purchased the former Spiegel warehouse, at 1200 West 35th Street in Bridgeport. The five plus acre lot stretches from 35th St. on the south to 33rd Place on the north and is bordered by Racine av. on the east, and the South Branch of the Chicago River on the west.
- -The enormous 500,000 square-foot structure, built in 1911 began its career as a warehouse and manufacturing facility for Albert Fick and Co., a supplier to restaurants and hotels. Spiegel Catalogue occupied the building until 1978 when it was sold to Goodwill Industries. Manufacturing and warehousing remained its primary use throughout the subsequent tenants until Prairie Management’s acquisition.
- -While maintaining the building’s historic industrial integrity, the developers have undertaken substantial renovation including new roofing and elevator installment, boiler replacement, parking lot pavement, and a two-year long sand-blasting and tuck-pointing. Original details such as the skylights, wood plank flooring, and timber wood posts and beams have been restored and other items as the steel plates have become unique stall doors in the men’s and women’s lavatory. The building provides storage facilities for hundreds of companies, law firms, and individuals. It also houses the Bridgeport Art Center occupied by more than 40 artists and a recently completed renovation providing a stunning 18,000 square-foot “Skyline Loft” event space
Current Tenants Include
- Continental Airport (corporate office and shuttle service)
- Peer Foods
- Joffrey Ballet (office, shop and storage for sets, costumes, and lighting)
- North American Bear Company
- Mexican Cultural Center
- Benton House (stores computers and electronics)
- Primitive Arts (warehouse and showroom for primitive furniture and artifacts from Africa, South America, India, Thailand, etc.)
- Connie’s Pizza (Storage)
- Olson Assembling
- Coyle & Herr (furniture consignment store)
- Artists began moving into the building 11 years ago, attracted by the low rents, accessibility, and Bridgeport’s growing role as an attractive neighborhood for artists to work and live. As the number of artists grew the building was re-named THE BRIDGEPORT ART CENTER, and the artists formed a collaborate group called ARTISTS OF EASTBANK that meets monthly to plan exhibits and exchange ideas.
- Their dream of living as well as working in the building will soon become a reality after the completion of extensive remodeling to provide 108, 1,000 square-foot work/living spaces. It is expected to be the first major artist live/work space in Chicago.
- Other expansion projects currently underway are individual spaces and common workspace areas dedicated to fashion designers, ceramic artists, an outdoor sculpture garden, and access to the river for kayaks and other water-related activities.
A sculpture garden is created on the former rail spur and train shed on the east side of the building along Racine Avenue. The inaugural exhibition was curated by prominent Chicago sculptor Terry Karpowicz and shows the work of 20 Chicago Sculpture International Artists. The stone, steel and stainless steel works are mounted on the walls, hung from the open air trusses and use the wonderful brick arches of the old train shed (that were created for the sculpture garden) as visual frames to view the sculptures. Other pieces are placed in the ivy covered easement that runs the entire length of the historic building.
The crown jewel of the Bridgeport Art Center is its newly opened 18,000 square-foot event space. Set against a backdrop of sweeping city views and the south branch of the Chicago River, coupled with a ceiling of huge skylights, this unusual space is Chicago’s newest treasure for events of all sizes and functions. Among the first to utilize the space are the Friends of the River annual Halloween bash, the Italian Chamber of Commerce’s Italian Festival, The Renaissance Society, and weddings, large and small. One of the building’s elevators is large enough to accommodate a car or horse-drawn carriage to transport a bride and groom to and from their wedding. It also doubles as a moving bar serving beverages as guests are lifted to the 5th floor.