“Merchandise Mart of technology”

“Backers of the proposed 18-story building include intellectual property advisory firm Ocean Tomo and TechNexus, a source of funding and connections for startups. Their zoning attorney, Michael Ezgur, called the project a “Merchandise Mart of technology,” a description that’s apt but falls short.

“The whole building is essentially a living laboratory,” said James Malackowski, Ocean Tomo chairman and CEO. It’s where consumer products can be developed with new “smart” features, tested and launched into the world, carrying with them continued relevance for a city that gave birth to the Twinkie, the zipper and the modern skyscraper.

It would become a focal point of what the city in 2014 christened the Fulton Market Innovation District, now home to Google, Glassdoor and other tech firms.

On the building’s lower floors will be showrooms where wholesale buyers can check out the inventions — the Merchandise Mart part. The middle floors would be where the research and collaborating goes on, probably by workers of established firms looking to make headway on a project.

Malackowski said Ocean Tomo and TechNexus will move their downtown headquarters into the space, bringing along several young firms. “TechNexus already has to turn away people for space reasons. If the city gives us the zoning approval, this building will be built,” he said.

On the upper floors would be a 200-room hotel, where products can be tested and innovators can rest their weary heads. The zoning application promises parking for 282 cars and 100 bikes.

That’s a lot to put into an 18-story building. The design by Pappageorge Haymes Partners, one of Chicago’s most prominent firms, delineates the three different areas of the building and uses brick veneer and varied window shapes near the ground to blend in with the neighbors. The middle floors make up most of the building’s 534,000 square feet and seem to strain against the lot lines of the roughly half-block site.” Read More 

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