Chicago tech neighborhood guide: River North

by Andreas Rekdal
April 12, 2016

Though it may not draw as many tourists as the Loop, River North has been at the heart of Chicago since the city’s incorporation in 1837. It was home to the first bridge across the Chicago River, the city’s first drug store and hotel, and, most importantly, its first three taverns.

Today, River North is a hotspot for tech companies, who occupy over a fourth of the neighborhood's office space (according to a 2016 report by CBRE). The neighborhood also has the largest concentration of art galleries in the U.S. outside of Manhattan, great bars and coffee shops, and countless options for coworking spaces, offices, coding schools and tech meetups.

Interestingly, a significant chunk of Chicago's tech scene is located within a single iconic River North building: the Merchandise Mart. Completed in 1930, the Merch Mart was built to consolidate 13 different warehouses that shipped goods across the nation, and is so large it had its own zip code (60654) until 2008. Chicago tech hub 1871 calls Merchandise Mart home, as do a number of bootcamp programs, Motorola, Braintree and countless young and promising startups.

Top fundings in the past year

  • We are located in River North just right off the Chicago Brown Line stop. We also provide you with a free shuttle service to/from Ogilvie and Union.
    : $45 million — October 28, 2015
  • We're in a great, convenient River North location that's close to brown and blue line CTA stops.
    : $25 million — December 9, 2015
  • Our office location offers quick access to local transportation, tons of dining and shopping options, and is just blocks away from Fulton Market.
    : $22 million — November 24, 2015
  • : $20 million — May 20, 2015
  • Our custom built office is located in the heart of the Loop, close to the Brown, Orange, Pink, Purple, and Red Lines.
    : $20 million — August 19, 2015

Companies to know

Our headquarters is nestled alongside the Chicago River in the bustling River North neighborhood, close to both blue and brown line CTA trains.
Located in the popular River North neighborhood in Chicago, our headquarter offices are easily accessible to public transportation.
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Our headquarters are located in the River North area of Chicago. Located steps from the Chicago Brown Line stop on the CTA.
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Located in The Loop, our Chicago headquarters is a quick walk to public transportation options such as the CTA and Metra. We're close to Millennium Park as well as a variety of trendy restaurants and shopping venues. Our team is mostly remote, but our office is open to local and visiting employees!
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Word on the street

"After graduating from Techstars Chicago and 1871, both of which are based in the Merchandise Mart, we chose to stay in River North,” said SpotHero marketing VP Elan Mosbacher. “Three years and three offices later, River North has been great for SpotHero thanks to the convenient commute, reasonably priced office space and, of course, amazing parking options. We just expanded to another floor at 325 W Huron, so we're excited to continue to call River North home as we grow our team and company."

Word from the realtor

“River North is the traditional startup space — the first gentrified neighborhood with timber loft buildings,” said Brad Serot, executive VP of tenant representation at

. “The challenge has always been that the buildings are small and the supply is low, so when companies grow bigger, there’s nowhere for them to go.”

Public transportation

The “L”: The Brown and Purple line stop at the Merchandise Mart, and the Red line is just a few blocks over on Grand. That being said, every L train that enters the Loop has a stop within five minutes walking.

Commuter train: River North is a 15 minute walk and a five minute cab ride from Millennium Station and Ogilvie Transportation Center — the end stops for southbound and northbound commuter trains, respectively.

Coworking spaces

Best coffee spots

Bow Truss, Caffe Umbria, Asado Coffee Roasters, 3 Greens Market, Beatrix

Best happy hours

Rockit Bar & Grill, Bohemian House, Green Door Tavern, Underground Wonder Bar, Highline, Bull & Bear

Images via SpotHero and Shutterstock.

This guide is current as of April 2016. Got a tip for us? Reach out through our tip line!

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