In Chicago last year, the city council designated a section of the West Loop as the Fulton Market Innovation District, while earmarking $42 million in incentives and infrastructure improvements.
The rise of Chicago’s post-industrial Near West Side goes back to 1990 when Oprah moved her Harpo Productions studio into the area. Since then the area has slowly gentrified from what was once Chicago’s meatpacking district into a buzzy neighborhood with a host of new commercial businesses, residential housing, a growing startup scene, and trendy restaurants and cultural venues.
Exactly 25 years later, Google is moving 500 employees into a newly renovated West Loop building this year, which helped spur the Innovation District designation. The announcement of Google’s new regional HQ set off a slew of new tech company, gallery space and high-end retail development, and the area is now regarded by many as the coolest neighborhood in Chicago.
Meeting planners with programs coming up in Chicago should definitely check out the area’s hot spots, such as the Girl & the Goat restaurant. The “Underground Goat” private event space seats 24 guests around one large table of 26 people around two tables.
The website reads: “The UG is not your typical private dining space, you and your guests will be led downstairs, through the restaurant and into the ‘staff only’ halls of the Goat. Once you’ve arrived, you’ll find a cozy and candle-lit room that echoes the casual, rustic atmosphere of the main dining room. It is also the home to the amazing selection of our wines and has its own sound & lighting system that can be adjusted to fit each parties’ needs.”
We stopped by the Goat for dinner this year and loved the local vibe. Try the wood oven roasted pig face with a sunny side egg and red wine/maple sauce. The bustling restaurant is located on Randolph Street—or “Restaurant Road”—where new dining spots are opening almost every month.
There are also a few interesting larger group venues in the Fulton Market Innovation District.
The new Morgan Manufacturing event space is designed to help “seed the intersection of Chicago’s business, technology, creative, and philanthropic communities by creating a space to stimulate collaboration, ideation and creation.” It occupies a renovated, pre-Chicago Fire building offering over 32,000 sf of function class space evoking what Morgan Manufacturing calls “industrial elegance.”
Housed inside a historic brick building, Catalyst Ranch offers 15,000 square feet for offsite meetings and events in a series of loft spaces designed like hip residential artist studios.
Also look at OFFSITE located just a block off Randolph Street. There’s a 100-pax Main Room and a Mezzanine conference room for 26 people, and both are designed with a modern residential media room atmosphere. The Main Room features two 60” and one 70” LED 3D TV’s with iMac computers, professional sound and lighting, and seamless A/V and input connectivity for all Mac and PCs. The space also includes a dining area and fully-stocked kitchenette, private reception desk and a private office.
We will follow up once we have more details about the Google move, along with any private event options and collaboration opportunities.