Pilsen building offers unique space for artists

December 8, 2011 (CHICAGO)

A local realtor purchased a 250,000-square-foot building in Pilsen when he graduated from law school in the 1980s. The structure remained empty for years until his son had a vision two years ago to transform the building and make it a business center.

He followed his gut and began rehabbing, keeping the flavor of the building.

The massive building opened as one of the largest macaroni factories in the world in the early 1900s. It is now trying to become a mini-Merchandise Mart.

It took Joey Cacciatore, the son of real-estate mogul Joseph Cacciatore, two years to transform the building into the Lacuna Artist Lofts.

"I wanted it to be sort of a melting pot of all different types of people and different industries mainly to do with the arts... and put them in the same building... definitely the only thing in the city that's like it," said Cacciatore.

There is an art gallery on the first floor and parking for 300 cars. The building is now home to more than 150 businesses and is known as the premier loft space in the Midwest.

Photographer Jimmy Fishbein, whose work is featured on many magazines, says the space is perfect.

"I fell in love with it - just raw - it's got a very raw, unique flare to it, like New York," said Fishbein.

Cacciatore offers businesses low rent and designs the raw space to fit their needs.

"We're built to suit here, so nothing's speculative. We sign a lease and then we start to build," said Cacciatore.

"It's easy to get to - it's right on the highway," said sculptor Audry Cramlit.

Tenants can have a space that is thousands of square feet or just a few hundred. Artists, clothing designers, music vendors, graphic specialists, furniture companies, interior designers and a host of other artistic people occupy the building.

"Great energy here - it's one of the best places in town," said multimedia company owner Andrew Barber. "There's a lot of creative minds here and we all work together."

Fallon Johnson of Annie Bell Fragrances decided it was time to open a specialty candle shop where she make and sell her one-of-a-kind natural soy candles.

"It was very reasonable with the price, and I love the whole artist decor," said Johnson.

"This, to me, is the most unique space that anybody can rent - period - in, probably, the Midwest," said Cacciatore.

Every Friday, the building stays open late. They provide refreshments, a fashion show, and an opportunity for business owners in the building to showcase items.

There are only a few spaces left to be rented. Cacciatore wants to make Pilsen a happening place to visit. He has already purchased another building and will start transforming it soon.

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