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Old factory building along the expressway starts new life as loft offices

The building’s former loading dock now serves as a landscaped courtyard leading to the lobby. A new elevator shaft is clad in corten steel.

1308 N. Elston is an early mover into Chicago’s evolving North Branch Corridor

The address 1308 N. Elston Avenue may not be familiar to most Chicagoans, but many people can picture the 100-year-old industrial structure standing between the Kennedy Expressway and the Morton Salt shed with its large south-facing billboard.

“It’s one of those buildings that we’ve all passed our entire lives,” says Regina Stilp of Farpoint Development, the Chicago-based firm that recently finished transforming the former light fixture factory into five stories of trendy loft offices.

The company essentially “decorated with demo,” reducing the old building down to its most basic—and attractive—elements: rustic brick walls, high beamed ceilings, and oversized windows.

“With an adaptive reuse project we always try to find the one key thing that sets a building apart,” explains Stilp. In the case of 1308 N. Elston this feature was the rear loading dock that Farpoint turned into a walled courtyard with new landscaping. The space serves as a building amenity and is a key part of its “unique entry sequence.”

Photo by Jacob VanVooren, courtesy Baum Realty
The new entrance courtyard is concealed behind a sturdy masonry wall.

The courtyard leads to a glass-walled lobby with a decorative green wall and a new elevator shaft clad in oxidized corten steel—a nod to the corrugated metal roof of the nearby Morton building. Above, a rooftop deck offers sweeping views of the downtown skyline.

Farpoint moved forward with the overhaul “on spec”—or without any office users signed—and the company has yet to formally announce a tenant. The development team took a risk on 1308 N. Elston because it felt strongly about its high visibility, convenience to the highway, and proximity to neighborhoods like Lincoln Park, Wicker Park, and Bucktown.

“People know the building and once they realize that they are five minutes from home, it becomes an appealing proposition,” says Stilp.

Chicago’s surrounding North Branch Corridor will eventually welcome other major investments such as the mixed-use redevelopment of the former Morton building into the “Salt District” as well as the 800-pound gorilla of a project that is Lincoln Yards.

“The North Branch is an interesting story and we’re happy to be part of it,” Stilp adds. “It’s nice to be there first.”

Photo by Jacob VanVooren, courtesy Baum Realty
Oxidized steel is used in the graphic design of entryway, which spells out “Elston.” The iconic logo of Morton Salt shed is visible across the street.

Photo by Jacob VanVooren, courtesy Baum Realty
Looking up at 1308 N. Elston’s brick facade and large windows.

Photo by Zachary James Johnston, courtesy Baum Realty
The bright lobby has a reclaimed desk in front of a living green wall.

Photo by Zachary James Johnston, courtesy Baum Realty
The office floors are open and bright and offer views in every direction.

Photo by Jacob VanVooren, courtesy Baum Realty
The best views, however, can be found on the building’s rooftop terrace.
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