In the last several decades, few Chicago neighborhoods have seen the robust growth that has occurred in the West Loop.
Centered on Madison Street and roughly bookended by the Eisenhower Expressway and Ashland Avenue – as with most of our neighborhoods, those boundaries are in frequent dispute – the West Loop has gone from 'Chicago's land of the living dead' to a hotbed of technology and entrepreneurship rivaling River North.
And the boom continues. Several high-profile tech companies have recently expanded their West Loop operations by signing mammoth leases in the area.
1. Uber Technologies
The San Francisco-based ride-sharing giant recently leased 58,000 square feet of office space at 111 North Canal Street. Still publicly celebrating Illinois Governor Pat Quinn's veto of a controversial bill that would have imposed stiff regulations on its sector, Uber may hire hundreds of new employees this year. Now it has room for them.
Uber will have a heavy-hitting new neighbor in its digs at 111 North Canal Street: the cloud solutions firm Fieldglass.
“We’ve been on a fast growth trajectory for the past several years," said Amy Nordness, the company's HR director, “adding 100 local employees in 2014 alone. And with SAP," which acquired Fieldglass this year, "we will continue this same hiring pace for the next few years to come,” said Nordness. “Ultimately we needed a larger footprint to accommodate our growing team while still preserving our company culture. For a variety of reasons, the West Loop provided us the best 'home' to achieve this.”
Nordness said that the West Loop was the top choice for Fieldglass when it went location-scouting. “We chose it for its proximity to the major train lines and transportation ease for our employees from all over the city and suburbs. On top of that, it had the right “feel” for Fieldglass – it’s a bit more laid back and less corporate-y than other parts of the city. The neighborhood is fun, vibrant and tech-centric.”
The larger space is part of an ambitious plan for the future of Fieldglass and its culture, said Nordness. “Over the last few years, there’s been a shift in how today’s multi-generational labor force gets work done. One of our biggest demands from this new space was to enable new ways to work and collaborate. The office we’re building out within 111 N. Canal will be tech-centric, eclectic and collaborative - offering everything from open work spaces to quiet areas for solo projects all on one floor. We’re also excited to use the amazing amenities that our new building offers – the rooftop deck, state-of-the-art gym, and more.”
And if the new staff at Fieldglass needs an extra packet of sugar, they can always ask Uber.
If that doesn't work, they could ask someone from Twitter, Vivid Seats, or the cross-channel marketing firm Signal. That fast-growing company is also moving to 111 North Canal Street, subleasing 27,000 square feet from Braintree.
“People are drawn to the spacious, loft-style buildings filled with light,” said Carol Jouzaitis, Signal's VP of Marketing Content and Communications. "There’s a lot of energy in the neighborhood right now with all that’s happening there, and wonderful places like the French Market for food and drink. The transportation options are excellent, as is the proximity to everything downtown. It’s just a cool place to be.”
Signal, said Jouzaitis, “has simply outgrown our current office space. We had about 50 workers in early 2012 when we moved into our current location, which consists of 9,000 square feet at 440 North Wells Street in River North. Signal has grown to 120 employees from 76 at the beginning of 2014, and we’re continuing to grow.”
4. Rise Interactive
With healthy growth expected to continue in the digital marketing field, Rise is doubling the size of its headquarters at 1 South Wacker Drive. It may hire as many as 150 new employees in the next three years.
Compared to the sprawl of Houston or Los Angeles, Chicago's designated neighborhoods aren't really that far apart, after all. Alexandra Taylor, the Senior Marketing Communications Manager at Rise, said that its new space is only sort of in the West Loop, but it will nonetheless integrate with the area's culture.
“The beauty of where we are situated is that we actually have the best of multiple worlds. We are just blocks away from River North, giving us our tech-y vibe. We sit on the edge of the loop, providing some creative influence from the West Loop and we have the 'get down to business' piece, too, from being situated in the Loop. It’s a cultural melting pot that fits our brand perfectly.”
Rise is thriving on the excitement of its new surroundings. “We are definitely excited about the expansion and what it means for the future of Rise,” Taylor said. “We believe the build-out will allow us to continue hiring the right type of team, with the ability to deliver the experiences our clients have come to expect from the agency. It provides great motivation to continue evolving our approach, innovating, and expanding the services we offer to brands. Not to mention, it gives us a little extra elbow room for Beer Fridays, internal events, games, and whatever else we can come up with!”