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Huge Mystery Project on Chicago River Will Star Metropolis Coffee and More

By  Benjamin Woodard and Ariel Cheung | May 14, 2015 5:35am 

 Metropolis Coffee is moving its roasting operation to a complex on the Chicago River.
Metropolis Coffee Moves
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AVONDALE — The new digs of Metropolis Coffee Company's roasting facility along the Chicago River could be the beginning of something the industrial district there hasn't seen in its more-than-100-year history.

Paul Levy, the developer known for creating the Bridgeport Art Center, has bought a couple of buildings at 3057 N. Rockwell St. and begun knocking down walls to carve out a handful of large spots for tenants.

Developer Paul Levy bought a series of industrial buildings in Avondale — and has big plans. [All photos by Benjamin Woodard/DNAinfo]

Metropolis Coffee's new roasting facility will be located in the far building.

Tony Dreyfuss, owner of Metropolis, is the un-named complex's first occupant. Crews have already began building out the coffee company's large warehouse, which at nearly 18,000 square feet is 80 percent bigger than its current Andersonville location.

"Everyone says manufacturing is dead in the United States," Dreyfuss said during a tour of the development. "That's bulls---. It's just changed."

Dreyfuss, 40, said all production should shift to the new spot in June. Soon, he said, the company should for the first time ever reach a yearly production of 1 million pounds of roasted coffee beans.

The development could be a testament to the changing face of Chicago's industry.

Ben Woodard says Dreyfuss and his father started small:

Levy declined to be interviewed about his plans to bring other tenants to the property on Rockwell, but Ald. Deb Mell (33rd) expressed reserved excitement.

"There’s some pretty cool stuff going on, but we're in negotiations, so we don’t want people talking about it yet," she said in an interview.

She said her desire since taking office was to create jobs and preserve the industrial nature of Avondale's riverfront.

"There were multiple plans that wanted to put residential [buildings] in there," she said of the property, "but we ... wouldn’t support a zoning change to do that."

Instead, Mell pictures small, food-focused businesses in the spot, like a brewery, distillery or even a chocolate-maker, she said.

"[The city is] doing all kinds of really cool stuff, and I was hoping it would turn into some kind of area like that, where young entrepreneurs who want to make different food products have a place to go," she said. "It's exciting to have something happening over there."

The new complex includes other spaces for tenants.

While other tenants might be in question, Metropolis will certainly be a part of the plan.

Dreyfuss said customers and employees visiting his roasting facility, and whatever else might end up at Levy's complex, would enter through an alleyway.

Levy and his crews knocked down a couple 100-year-old buildings to carve out a parking lot and courtyard among other one- to three-story buildings.

Metropolis will move into one of the bigger spaces available. Although still under construction, the facility will feature massive windows for natural lighting and share a river-side patio with an empty, even bigger space next door.

Dreyfuss said some of the workers building out his space now also worked on the transformation of the Bridgeport Arts Center.

"It's beautiful," he said of the work, adding the next door space was "another space like this — a space you can dream in."

The new coffee roasting facility will have three coffee roasters, office space and space for events.

He said he and his business partner, father Jeff Dreyfuss, have been looking for more than a year for something bigger than what they have now.

"When we moved into our place on Clark Street, it seemed impossible that we'd ever fill it. It seemed like we would never," he said. "We're really out of room now."

Metropolis' three roasters can crank out 120 kilos of roasted coffee beans every 15 minutes. In the new facility, the company would be able to boost production to 3 million pounds if it ran three shifts.

The space has room for bags upon bags of raw beans, as well as coffee brewing classrooms, office space and room for bagging roasted beans.

"From the time it's picked to the time it's brewed, it's all done by hand," Dreyfuss said of his product.

Like in Andersonville, Metropolis plans to host events free of charge there for good causes.

Dreyfuss said he's hopeful Levy's development would attract more craft manufacturing — and a loyal following from throughout the city.

"I would love to share a tasting facility with a beer company and a spirits company and be able to have a cafe during the day and a bar at night. It would be so cool," he said.

Dreyfuss said Metropolis' Edgewater cafe would remain on Granville Avenue, but should get a renovation soon.

He said the new Avondale roasting facility was a sign of his company's healthy growth since it opened in 2003.

"We'd like to grow in a way that's helpful to people, whether they drink coffee, whether they brew coffee or they're touched by coffee in some way," he said. "They should be better off because of our growth, not worse off. We're not using our growth to leverage better pricing — but more to be positive in the community."

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