Chicago’s iconic riverfront Morton Salt site is about to get a mixed-use revitalization

On January 8, 2018, Morton Salt, Inc. announced that its iconic property on Elston Avenue in Chicago, Illinois will be revitalized as part of a redevelopment plan led by R2 Companies.

Morton Salt and R2 Companies have come to an agreement whereby Morton Salt will retain its highly recognizable branded rooftop, and will relocate its Research & Development (R&D) Center to this site from its current location in Elgin, Illinois.

Morton Salt and R2 Companies officially closed on the sale of the Elston Avenue site on December 29, 2017. R2 Companies partnered with Skydeck, the investment arm of The Michael Polsky Family Office in Chicago, on the Morton Salt site redevelopment plan.

Logo copyright © Morton Salt.

The site, which previously served as a packaging and warehousing operation for Morton Salt, will be transformed by R2 Companies into a mixed-use, riverfront development designed to enhance and adaptively reuse the building’s exceptional characteristics and preserve Morton Salt’s legacy in Chicago. The new Morton Salt R&D Center will anchor the office portion of the development and occupy 20,000 square feet of the former packaging facility on-site.

For generations, the Morton Salt site on Elston Avenue has been part of the fabric of Chicago,” said Christian Herrmann, Chief Executive Officer, Morton Salt, Inc. “It is with that long, rich history in mind that we decided to explore a wide range of possibilities for the future of our iconic site. We knew it was ripe for redevelopment, and we took great care to find the right firm to help bring our vision to life. This redevelopment plan represents the next chapter of the Morton Salt story in Chicago – and we’re incredibly proud to be part of the past, present, and future of the Elston Avenue site.

Following an extensive search, Morton Salt selected R2 Companies in 2016 to re-imagine the 4.25 acre riverfront site from heavy industrial use to a prime location for commercial and retail entities along the burgeoning North Branch Corridor.

For two years, we have worked hand-in-hand with Morton Salt on this iconic riverfront site – and together, we have found an innovative way to give the property new life,” said Matt Garrison, Managing Principal of R2 Companies. “It is the most recognizable building in the North Branch Corridor, with unique attributes including dramatic 50 foot ceiling heights, column free space and over 500 linear feet of Chicago River frontage. The project will create an important access point to the Chicago River, provide more green space and serve as a retail and entertainment anchor for Goose Island. Thousands of good jobs have already been created on Goose Island, and this project will be a catalyst for even more economic development as we work with the City of Chicago to take it to the next level.

Highlights of the redevelopment agreement include:

  • Sale of the 4.25 acre property to R2 Companies for an undisclosed amount;
  • Adaptive reuse and historically sensitive renovation of many significant structures;
  • Addition of significant public riverwalk and green space;
  • Mixed use project including office, retail and entertainment uses;
  • Retention of the Morton Salt-branded rooftop; and

Relocation of Morton Salt’s R&D Center to the site from Elgin as part of a multi-year lease commencing in 2020.

Morton Salt’s R&D center is the main innovation hub for the company’s North American business and delivers innovation in food and across its other key categories including water softener salt, pool salt, deicing salt, and salt solutions for various industrial applications. The move of Morton Salt’s R&D center to the Elston Avenue site will enable the company to deepen its focus on new product development, enhanced formulations, application testing, and technical support as the company intends to grow its footprint and capabilities in its new location.

Herrmann added: “Morton Salt was founded in Chicago and we remain committed to building upon the legacy we have established here in our hometown.”

Morton Salt’s Elston Avenue operations started in the late 1920s. More recently, the site primarily packaged and stored commercial deicing salt on-site to help keep streets, sidewalks and other surfaces safe during the winter season. The packaging and warehousing operation on Elston Avenue ceased at the end of 2015, following a larger production footprint optimization study of the company’s North American operating network.

The Elston site redevelopment is part of Morton Salt’s business and cultural transformation strategy aimed at strengthening the company’s presence in the marketplace and workplace. It is also the latest example of Morton Salt’s commitment to Chicago. In 2016, Morton Salt relocated its downtown headquarters office to the new River Point office tower located at 444 W. Lake Street. Morton Salt signed a 16-year lease agreement and moved nearly 400 employees to its new West Loop office in December 2016.

The Morton Salt project increases R2 Companies’ development portfolio in and around Goose Island to over 15 acres of land, 800,000 square feet of adaptive reuse structures and 1,600 feet of linear Chicago River frontage.

Photo courtesy of R2 Companies.

See R2 Companies website.

See Morton Salt website.


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