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Green Exchange Receives Chicago Neighborhood Development Award

By Victoria Johnson | February 19, 2013 1:34pm

LOGAN SQUARE — Since plans for the environmentally sustainable Green Exchange complex were announced in 2006, the kudos have poured in.

Now the developers have been recognized by the Chicago Neighborhood Development Awards for converting the old Cooper Lamp Factory into a bustling, LEED Platinum complex and making good on the promise to turn the vacant building into a vital business center.

Last week, the award for Outstanding For-Profit Neighborhood Real Estate Project was given to Baum Development, which bought the building after the Frederick Cooper Lamp Factory closed in 2005.

With help from the Logan Square Neighborhood Association, Baum Development fought plans to turn the building into condos and secured grants and loans to rehabilitate the 270,000-square-foot building, according to the Local Initiatives Support Corporation Chicago, which gives out the awards.

“At the Chicago Neighborhood Development Awards, we acknowledge and celebrate the organizations, developers and architects who sustain and enhance the vibrancy of our city,” said Susana L. Vasquez, executive director of LISC Chicago, in a statement before the event.

The building was built in 1914 for the Vassar Swiss Underwear Co., which remained there until 1967, when the site was sold to the lamp company, according to the Green Exchange website.

It remained a lamp factory until the company outsourced production overseas and the building closed in 2005. Soon thereafter, brothers David and Douglas Baum bought the building, spending the next six years rehabilitating it.

There were some setbacks when the economy tanked in 2008, though in that same year the building was added to the National Register of Historic Places.

The Baum brothers pressed on, and in early 2011 the tenants started moving in. Some 30 companies now call the building home, among them Coyote Logistics, GreenChoice Bank and Greenhouse Loft.

An organic roof garden, 41,000-gallon rainwater reservoir and energy-efficient escalator are among several green features listed on the building's website, and Baum Development recently introduced honey-producing bees to pollinate the roof garden, LISC Chicago noted.

"It's obviously rewarding, and it's quite an honor," David Baum said of the award. "It's the result of many years of hard work and difficult times, frankly."

He spoke of the "2009 financial debacle" when the owners had to scramble to secure a loan in bad economic times and "a lot of sleepless nights" that went along with it. Because of that, Baum said, there was an added sense of vindication because so many didn't think the project would materialize.

"We feel good that we were able to something beneficial for the neighborhood," he said.