So I went to look at some studio spaces in Bridgeport neighborhood last night with a friend who is interested in teaming up to split costs. The area is great, old industry, converted to modern small-scale manufacturing.
The building I was looking at is part of the Chicago Sustainable Manufacturing Center, otherwise known as Bubbly Dynamics owned by John Edel. I’ve been acquainted with him for some time, and remember when the building was just taking its baby steps toward renovation. It was a mess, really, full of timber, old windows, junk and other people’s storage (John’s a nice guy like that). I haven’t been there in almost 2 years, and when I rolled up on my bicycle, I didn’t recognize the place!
The road had been paved, the factory across the street was razed. There was a sidewalk and curb cuts, and TREES. Wow. What a difference. Chicago really did some work over there. That makes me glad. Then, inside the building was another impressive sight. John had transformed this building into a gorgeous glowing example of economy and sustainability, married with fantastic design and beauty.
The walls that I’d been previously impressed with the fact that they had been sheet rocked finally, were now real solid walls, painted, trimmed with art on them. Oh! The big lobby sign was great too! The windows and doors and all the little things: finished and sealed concrete floors, HEAT!, some nice ficus in the hallways, lovely hand made railings on the stairs. So lovely.
As we toured the building, John pointed out how all the materials were salvaged, or donated. This door was pulled out of a junk yard, this railing was old brewery pipe, this glass block wall was reconstructed from block that was taken out of somewhere else in the building, this expensive Italian tile in the restroom was left behind by a contractor. Yay! For freebies.
We saw two different available spaces in the Center. One on the second floor, with nice windows. Not much of a view, but what can you really ask for in the manufacturing district? (Also, it smelled like cinnamon the whole time we were there. The Factory down the road, makes every kind of off-brand “Pop-Tart” sold in the US.) This space was just about 600 square feet. More than adequate for my needs, but I was going to team up with Chuck, so we went to the basement to see the larger space, but not before we went up to the roof.
A few years ago, I had gone to Bubbly and helped plant the roof top garden. John’s daughter’s face had been pixelized and mapped out with plant colors, and we were planting a picture of her. It didn’t look like much then, but now, wow! I can’t wait to Google Maps updates their satellite photos! Its very clearly a child’s face on the roof, in plants!
Then down to the basement, we saw an 1100 square foot space. Holy cow, it was SO BIG. It was empty and that made it feel even bigger. My voice echoed and to tell you the truth, I was a little intimidated by the vat openness of it. Agoraphobia, just a smidgen. Chuck liked that space. He likes to spread out and says he has done his best work in basements. :)
Now I’m rolling around the numbers in my head, thinking about what I’d have to do to get into that space. Sheesh. I’d have to get the capital funds to start up the business. Then, I’d have to move all my equipment in, which would be ok because there’s a freight elevator and loading dock. Then, I’d have to get all my stuff up from Saint Louis that’s still sitting over there. ugh. Then there’s planning to bring in enough money to pay rent in 2 spaces one to live one to work. Thankfully, the utilities are included at Bubbly.
The other tenants we met seemed excited to have printing in the building. Two are screen printing artists, and a few are people I know from the O.G. Chicago bicycle scene. It seems like an ideal space to work from, collaborate within and maybe become a real participating part of something meaningful and sustainable.
The only problem now, is the funding. And the fact that if I have the space, I now NEED a Vandercook. Dang.