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Endangered Schulze Bakery May Soon Be Reborn as a Data Center

By Sam Cholke | April 24, 2015 5:33am

Developers of the Schulze Bakery said they are now back on track to restore the historic building and bring in a data center as a tenant. [Pappageorge Haymes]

HYDE PARK — Just as the Schulze Bakery was labeled as endangered, the hulking Washington Park structure — once one of the largest bakeries in the world — seems poised for a resurrection.

On Wednesday, Landmarks Illinois put the former bakery at 40 E. Garfield Blvd. on its list of Most Endangered Historic Places for the year. On Thursday, the developer said financing is now in place to revive Schulze Bakery.

“It’s coming together pretty good, we’re still pursuing a data center,” said Ghian Foreman of 55th and State Redevelopment, who has been working on reviving the building since 2006.

Foreman said in the last month-and-a-half he found a lender lined up to commit more than $100 million to turn two-thirds of the 150,000-square-foot building into a data center and “vanilla box” the rest for commercial use. He said he is working with an operator to run the data center and is just looking for a tenant.

“The bad thing about a data center is no people, it’s not going to activate the space,” Foreman said. “We’re going to have a building full of computers, but we also need a building full of people.”

He said he’s reached out to the University of Chicago and other possible commercial tenants that could keep the building full of employees, who could walk for lunch to the new Currency Exchange Café or visit the Washington Park Arts Incubator after work.

He said he is visiting conferences now and talking up companies shopping for a data center. He said after a tenant is found, he will pursue historic preservation tax credits to round out the financing and begin work.

The Schulze Bakery was designed in 1914 by John Ahlschlager, who designed many of the greystone mansions in Logan Square and the Paramount Theater, now known as the Logan Theater.

When the bakery was in its prime under Interstate Bakeries, the smell of butternut bread mingled with the odors of white and rye from four other nearby bakeries and blanketed the entire neighborhood with the aroma of fresh bread.

Interstate closed the bakery in 2004, ending 90 years of bread-baking in the building, blaming the Atkins diet craze of the time, which made breads and carbohydrates out to be the enemy.

The Schulze Bakery is on the National Register of Historic Places, which provides very few protections, but opens the door for tax incentives from the National Park Service, a program Landmarks Illinois would also like to see emulated at the state level.

“The building has been sitting there vacant for a very long time and it’s because of this funding gap,” said Lisa DiChiera of Landmarks Illinois.

Foreman said his plans for a data center were initially thwarted in 2010 because of a nagging funding gap, which he’s filled for projects in other states like Ohio with historic tax credits from the state.

“Historic sites such as this demonstrate the need and importance for local, state and national programs to promote adaptive reuse and reservation,” said Ken DeMuth, senior associate at Pappageorge Haymes Partners, the architect on the project.

Foreman said he was not happy about having to mothball the project for five years, but is now back on track and has masonry teams out stabilizing the terra cotta façade and engineers preparing all the technical documents he will need to submit to the National Park Service.

The main structure of the bakery will house a data center. [Pappageorge Haymes]

A third of the building will be redone for commercial tenants. [Pappageorge Haymes]

The building features detailed terra-cotta tiling on the exterior. [Pappageorge Haymes]

Workers are seen in 1916 when the bakery was one of the largest in the world. [Internet Archive]

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