Peek inside Chicago's new 'Green Exchange'

March 23, 2012 3:37:09 PM PDT
It's been a long time coming, but finally, Chicago's hub of sustainability is opening its doors. Hosea Sanders takes us inside "The Green Exchange" in this "Live Green with ABC7" report.

A project that was expected to take two years to complete ended up stretching out about seven years due to economic woes. But, now, the city can point to a one-stop shop for help to "live green."

Perhaps you are one of the 2 million people who drive or take the train by the building in the 2500-block of West Diversey every day. The striking emblem on what once was a clock tower hints to what's inside.

"The concept behind the Green Exchange is to create a platform for green-minded companies that can share best practices both physically and also intellectually," said David Baum of Baum Development.

Tenants, such as 2 Point Perspective: Architecture and Interiors, are seizing opportunities to share their vision with likeminded businesses.

"It's really nice to have neighbors like a green bank, a green packaging company, a green event space," said 2 Point Perspective's Lisa Elkins. "There's a green contractor that's just moving in the building and we've already given him a project."

Clients also find value in the one-stop shop. Bride-to-be Mila Gumin is shopping for a wedding venue and is impressed by the offerings.

"If I were to pick this space it would be something to make me feel good about it," said Gumin. "I'd feel good about myself having chosen a space like this."

It's no surprise-- the nearly 100-year-old, 276,000-square-foot building itself is remodeled green. Joan Dahlquist was the project manager.

"It's a very energy-efficient building, and we were able to reuse over 90 percent of the original structure," said Dahlquist. "We've got reclaimed wood in the lobby from an old barn in Connecticut and we have recycled aluminum tile in the lobby as well."

Even the escalator is eco-friendly. The people mover slows down and uses 30-percent less energy when it senses that no one is using it.

Still, the feature of which the developers are most proud is the creation of green jobs.

"Originally, we projected there would be between 300 and 500 people working in the building when it was fully leased," Dahlquist said. "Today, we have over a thousand people working in the building and when it's fully occupied we expect to have about 2,000 people working just in the Green Exchange."

The Green Exchange will host the Green Metropolis Fair on Saturday, April 14, 10 a.m. - 6 p.m. The fair will showcase a variety of green retailers, including some that are housed in the building. There will also be workshops and other eco-friendly family activities.