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Why Chicago Market Hopes to Move Into the Wilson ‘L’ Station

Windows were recently reinstalled in the Gerber Building as part of the Wilson station rehab. Photo: John Greenfield

A few months ago the Dill Pickle Food Co-op moved to a new, extremely transit-friendly location right next to the Spaulding entrance of the Blue Line’s Logan Square station. Now the upcoming Chicago Market food co-op is gunning to become our city’s next transit-oriented grocery store. Members hope to open the market in the 13,239-square-foot retail space that will become available in the Gerber Building at the northwest corner of Wilson and Broadway after the $203 million rehab of the CTA’s Wilson station is completed this January.

The co-op submitted a bid for the space in June, and over 2,500 people have signed an online petition in support of their proposal. The CTA is still evaluating the submissions to the request for proposals for the lease of the Gerber Building retail space and has not yet awarded the contract, according to CTA spokeswoman Irene Ferradaz. Chicago Market board member Anthony Todd discussed why having an ‘L’-accessible location is important to the co-op’s business plan.

Todd says the Gerber Building has been on Chicago Market's radar for some time now – they included it as a possible site in their first feasibility study. “The results were positive, but that's only one reason why the Gerber Building is such an exciting possibility for Chicago Market,” he says. “The location is incredible, both in terms of the historic physical space and the access to transit. The size is just right for us.” He adds that many co-op members live within a relatively short distance of the building. “Combine that with the impressive community support we received after we announced our bid and the strong support of [46th Ward alderman James] Cappleman, and it's just about the perfect site for Chicago Market.”

Screen Shot 2017-12-14 at 6.06.00 PM
Image: Chicago Market
Image: Chicago Market

At a community meeting last May Cappleman, who joined the co-op as its 500th member, said he'd "love to see it happen" at the Wilson station space. However, ht the time he told DNAinfo's Josh McGee that it may be challenging for the co-op to swing the rent at the large, high-demand space. "You could say it’s risky, but some times good things are worth taking a risk on."

Todd adds that having a transit-friendly site “is incredibly important” to the market's plan. “From the beginning of our site search process, one strong requirement was access to transit, and while we didn't quite anticipate the wonderful opportunity to literally be inside an ‘L’station, we always tried to be located near major train and bus lines.” The Gerber Building is also served by the CTA’s #78 Montrose bus and #36 Broadway bus.

In addition, Todd says that the members see Chicago Market as a place that Uptown residents will stop in regularly, not just drop by every few weeks for one giant grocery trip. “As an organization committed to sustainability, it's important to us to take alternatives to driving seriously, and while the Gerber Building space will offer ample parking, it won't have the huge lot that you might see at some large grocery stores.” There will be 30-40 car spots on the north side of the Gerber Building, according to Chicago Market spokeswoman Jen Spears.

Todd says the proximity to the Red and Purple lines has even changed the proposed store design – the plan now includes a take-out coffee window and a large selection of grab-and-go foods for transit riders. “Because of the unique nature of Chicago Market, both in terms of the cooperative ownership and the focus on local foods, we hope to make it a destination grocery store for the entire city -- and that's far more feasible with direct access to transit.”

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