Golub’s green thumb: Landlord leasing to urban farming nonprofit
Could food be grown in a Loop skyscraper and pave a new path for office conversions?
Russell Steinberg wants to grow the ingredients of your next salad in a Loop skyscraper, an idea he believes could save office landlords from having to consider costly conversions of their buildings into apartments amid a drawback from commercial real estate.
And the owner of the 22-story Burnham Center, Chicago’s Golub & Co., could be on board, as it’s negotiating a lease with Steinberg’s nonprofit Farm Zero, CoStar reported. Farm Zero is partnering with Canadian company Agriplay Ventures to occupy at least 70,000 square feet in Golub’s 111 West Washington Street.
While many developers are pondering office-to-apartments conversions to put a dent in stubborn commercial vacancy rates, Farm Zero and Agriplay want to grow efficient vertical farms producing basil, tomatoes, cucumbers and lettuce. While vertical farming has become somewhat common within shorter buildings such as warehouses, agriculture within downtown office towers with desk workers typing away a floor below would be novel.
“This is the first in a series of projects that are going to transform Chicago,” Steinberg told the outlet. “What we’re doing is utilizing all the vacant real estate to feed Chicago.”
With the advancement of modern technology, indoor farming has become increasingly popular, but these practices are typically done in warehouse spaces or low- to mid-rise buildings. However, Farm Zero has ambitions to turn 3 million square feet of downtown office space into vertical farming ventures, which Realty Income CEO Sumit Roy predicts will be a $50 billion industry within the next few years, the outlet reported.
Chicago’s office vacancy rate hit a record high 22.4 percent in the first quarter of this year. At the Burnham Center, roughly 30 percent of the building is unoccupied. Agriplay hopes its endeavors in the Windy City will serve as a model for other struggling office markets across the county that have yet to rebound from the pandemic.
“Everyone is going to end up following, but Chicago will wind up winning because they’re taking it and running with it,” Agriplay President Dan Houston told the outlet. “This is how everybody’s going to grow their food. Chicago is going to become a world leader.”
— Quinn Donoghue
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