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Pullman Crossings Is The Latest Chapter In Pullman's Turnaround

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Fourteen miles south of downtown, a tiny South Side neighborhood has undergone a steady recovery from poverty and high crime rates, fueled in part by real estate development. That neighborhood took another step forward last week.

A rendering of Pullman Crossings
A rendering of Pullman Crossings

Ryan Cos. and community developer Chicago Neighborhood Initiatives last week announced plans for Pullman Crossings, a 1.2M SF industrial development in the Pullman neighborhood that builds on the success Ryan and CNI have had developing a Whole Foods distribution warehouse in the neighborhood, and CNI's success repurposing a 180-acre site formerly home to a Reyerson Steel plant.

CNI President David Doig said Pullman Crossings will be on the last 60 acres of that site, which has been transformed in six years into a mixed-use development that has brought nearly $250M in real estate investment and over 1,000 jobs to Pullman. Pullman Crossings is expected to generate thousands more construction and permanent jobs.

Doig said the project that initially put Pullman on the map for real estate developers was a Walmart superstore that opened in 2013. CNI and 9th Ward Ald. Anthony Beale, whose ward includes Pullman, managed to convince the big box retailer that it could succeed with a store on the Far South Side.

Chicago 9th Ward Ald. Anthony Beale
9th Ward Ald. Anthony Beale

"Walmart was the catalyst. Prior to that, we did not have a quality store for residents to shop in the neighborhood," Beale said.

The fight to have Walmart built was a hard one. Construction unions opposed the project, given the company's hard anti-union stance. Beale, with CNI's input, orchestrated a deal that would ensure the store's construction would be done with 100% union labor. CNI also brokered agreements with Wal-Mart Stores Inc. and future companies entering Pullman ensuring that 80% of all new hires came from within Pullman, and established a minimum wage higher than the city's.

Method home cleaning products plant in Chicago
Method home cleaning products plant in Pullman.

After Walmart opened, CNI and Beale convinced home cleaning product company Method to open a plant in Pullman. That plant's roof is a 75K SF greenhouse operated by Gotham Greens. And CNI partnered with Ryan Cos. to build a 140K SF Whole Foods distribution center that is expected to open in early 2018.

Beale attributed the growth of real estate development in Pullman to his and CNI's ability to sell companies on the community. Pullman is easily accessible via expressway, public transit and via the Port of Chicago. And President Barack Obama's 2015 order declaring the Pullman train car district a national monument gave the neighborhood a national profile.

"Nobody can sell my community better than I can," Beale said.

As for Pullman Crossings, Doig said it is too early to speculate on tenants. But he is confident in the project's success, now that Ryan Cos. recognizes it has a diamond in the rough in Pullman. Doig expects Pullman Crossings to include a combination of warehouses, transportation logistics and production facilities. With Amazon fever in the air, Doig believes the site would be ideal for a fulfillment center.

Pullman Crossings is expected to break ground in mid-2018.