Former meatpacking plant turned into collaborative community of farming and small food business

Chicago Scene

CHICAGO — After decades of production, the former Peer Foods meatpacking plant in the Back of the Yards neighborhood sat idol for years.  Described by a real estate broker as a “strip and rip,” it was on the market to be stripped of its stainless steel, copper, and anything else of value. 

The Plant as it looks like today

Bubbly Dynamics saw tremendous potential in this USDA-grade facility and envisioned reusing the structure to incubate food and farming businesses. It would bring much-needed jobs back to a disinvested community in a “food desert” lacking healthy food options.

John Edel is the Founder of Bubbly Dynamics and The Plant.

“I bought the building in 2010 and we immediately started building growing systems and transforming it into a food business incubator,” he said. “This building can have a new life as a food business incubator. We can figure out how to take advantage of the embodied energy in the facility, not throw it away, not tear it down – but bring no companies in here and make new kinds of food.”

Relic of the old Central Manufacturing District

A repurposed industrial meatpacking facility, The Plant now serves as a living laboratory that demonstrates techniques for reimagining waste as a resource, achieving economies of scale and incubating small businesses. The goal of The Plant is to create replicable models for efficiencies that close loops of waste and energy and to encourage others to implement these techniques to combat climate change.

“We’re all about reusing salvaged materials, no only materials, building materials and otherwise, but other things like carbon dioxide from our brewery which feeds CO2 into our bio-reactors,” said Edel. “And the labs and grow rooms from one of the five farms that operate inside here at The Plant.”

The 100,000 sq. ft. facility is a collaborative community of small food businesses committed to material reuse and closed-loop systems. The Plant currently houses more than 20 small businesses. With an array of options including indoor and outdoor farms, kombucha, beer breweries, and a bakery.

Paying homage to the past, and old map of the Union Stock Yards from 1891

The Plant
1400 W 46th St.
Chicago, IL 60609

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