With the trend of de-industrialization common to many American cities, the 93,500 square-foot Peer Foods meatpacking plant was in danger of being abandoned when it was sold in 2010 to a unique social enterprise. Enter the The Plant, an ambitious effort to convert this huge facility into a vertical farm and business incubator. By recruiting tenants with complimentary processes, The Plant hopes to create a closed-loop manufacturing facility, where the waste produced by one business becomes the input for another. For example, a brewery housed on site would dispose some of its spent grain in the facility’s anaerobic digester, converting garbage into biogas fuel, and the rest of the spent grain would be used by a basement mushroom farm.
The Plant plans to bring 125 jobs to the distressed Back of the Yards neighborhood, all without the use of fossil fuels. Two thirds of the site will be devoted to sustainable businesses such as the aforementioned beer brewery and mushroom farm, along with a kombucha brewery, a bakery, and a community kitchen. The remaining third will be an aquaponic farming operation, yielding both fresh vegetables and tilapia fish.
The Plant is the brainchild of John Edel, a man who previously redeveloped the Chicago Sustainable Manufacturing Center. Edel’s earlier project successfully rebuilt a burnt-out shell of a facility into a fully occupied building, using recycled waste-stream materials, volunteer labor, and energy-efficient design. Edel and his team are fully confident in the replication potential of The Plant, and will be sharing their sustainable business model for free online. The environmental non-profit is tasked with promoting food production and entrepreneurship, while the building itself is owned by Bubbly Dynamics, LLC, John Edel’s company.
While the project is making progress, The Plant still has considerable building rehabilitation work ahead before the plans are fully realized
What sort of creative industrial re-use projects exist in your city, and how do they compare to The Plant Chicago?
Credits: Photos taken by Andrew Kinaci.