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The Outstanding For-Profit Neighborhood Real Estate Project Award

Method's South Side Soapbox

Eric Young Smith

The first large-scale manufacturing plant built on the South Side in several years, this 150,000-square-foot “green” soap factory well reflects the remarkable turnaround taking place in the historic Pullman neighborhood.

Part of the Pullman Park mixed-use campus being developed by Chicago Neighborhood Initiatives (CNI), the plant turned the brownfield site of a long-gone steel mill into a showcase of environmental design. Over a third of the plant’s electricity comes from solar tracking “trees” and a wind turbine; all but 3.5 acres of its 22-acre site has been returned to natural prairie; and, recycled and/or locally-made materials were used throughout.

The greenest feature, though, is Method’s partnership with Gotham Greens, a New York-based hydroponics pioneer that operates a greenhouse farm bigger than a football field on the roof. More than a million of fresh, sustainably-grown vegetables and herbs are being marketed annually to local groceries and restaurants.

“We sold them on the community” explained Ald. Anthony Beale (9th) about how he, Mayor Rahm Emanuel and CNI’s David Doig bested Michigan, which had offered incentives greater than the tax credits, TIF funds and easy terms offered by land-owning U.S. Bank. CNI also helped recruit more than 100 area residents now working on the hi-tech soap production floor and up in the greenhouse.

“Business can and should be a powerful force for good,” argues Drew Fraser, global CEO of Method, a maker of body-friendly and elegantly bottled soaps. The industry’s first LEED platinum certified plant, he said, “represents the intersection of sustainability, innovation, flexibility and partnership.”