Eco-friendly soap company Method opened new factory doors in Chicago’s Pullman neighborhood yesterday. The area was once a thriving industrial hub thanks to its namesake sleeper cars (production stopped in the 1960s), and the opening of the Method plant is in keeping with a big local push to revitalize the neighborhood.
“We gave Method the full-court press from our community, and they chose Pullman not just because of its infrastructural advantages like being so close to rail, road and water transit,” said Alderman Anthony Beale of the 9th Ward, where the factory is located, “but also because our story about a community working to revitalize itself resonated with their corporate values.”
In February, President Barack Obama visited Pullman to announce its designation as a national monument. “The site is at the heart of what would become America’s labor movement and as a consequence, at the heart of what would become America’s middle class,” Obama said of the neighborhood’s rich history.
Many of the row houses built by George Pullman for his workers have been abandoned, and jobs in the area had been scarce for some time. Many in the community believe that history tourism can bring work, and new businesses and residents are starting to move in. Method promises to hire a majority of its workforce from the Pullman and Roseland neighborhoods.
“Pullman, Roseland and the entire Far South Side were once forgotten communities. But because of our persistent, focused efforts, and the dedication of companies like Method, people are noticing us once again. Businesses are opening, housing is being rehabbed — we’re rebuilding the thriving live-work community that Pullman once was,” said Beale.
The revitalization of Pullman represents a shift from industrial to mixed-use. Atop the factory will sit the world’s largest rooftop farm, built by Brooklyn-based Gotham Green, which will provide fresh produce year-round.
According to WBEZ Chicago:
The $30 million facility is a Platinum LEED building, the highest certification for green construction. It uses renewable energy and 100 percent recycled plastic for its bottles. A greenhouse covers the roof. The company does this while aiming to be socially responsible by investing in an underserved urban area. That’s why it chose to set up its first ever manufacturing plant in Pullman.
Jenn Stanley is a freelance journalist, essayist and independent producer living in Chicago. She has an M.S. from the Medill School of Journalism at Northwestern University.