How Green Was My Value

Chicago’s Green Exchange creates a hub for eco-friendly businesses. By Sarah Parsons

Green products can be hard to come by, and often seem like hidden gems in cities chock full of environmentally-degrading businesses. Unfortunately for green city dwellers, organic clothing stores and slow-food restaurants are less abundant than Forever 21s and Burger Kings. 


But developers in Chicago aim to change the city’s current landscape of eco-friendly businesses. Baum Development is in the process of converting a former lamp company into the Green Exchange, a 250,000 square foot building that will house about 100 businesses that offer sustainable products and work to improve the environment. Developers hope to have the Green Exchange open for business in early 2008.

“The basic premise is to expand the green marketplace,” says David Baum, co-developer and owner of Green Exchange along with his brother, Douglas. “We believe there are a lot more people out there that are ready to buy environmentally-conscious products. We want to find the niche and make it mainstream.”

Barry Bursak, an environmental consultant who developed the original concept for Green Exchange, sees the exchange as a way to make green businesses and products more accessible to Chicago citizens.

“One of the problems for the consumer is knowing where resources are available,” Bursak says. “A lot of people are aware of solar energy or alternative products, but that starts a hunt on the internet. The reality is that these things exist in Chicago—but a lot of them are new, small companies that don’t have money for advertising. Bringing them together in a venue like this would be a way for the public to know that this is a place where things are available, including information.”

In addition to housing green business, the building itself, which will be located about 10 minutes north of the Chicago Loop, has green elements of its own. Architects are renovating the building to LEED standards, and Baum hopes to attain silver certification. A green roof and sky park, bike rooms, a recycled rainwater system, VOC-free paints and finishes, energy efficient windows, and priority hybrid parking are just some of Green Exchange’s eco features.

Though the Green Exchange only has letters of intent from five companies so far, Baum says he is working with 52 prospects, and hopes to have about 100 by the time the marketplace opens. Potential participants include a car-sharing service, government and environmental groups, a designer that makes handbags from recycled materials, sustainable furniture stores, a green printing company, eco dry cleaners, and an organic café. 

Ori Sivan, who owns Greenmaker Supply Company, the region’s first green building and home improvement center, hopes Green Exchange will lead to more environmentally conscious marketplaces.

“I think being the first project of its kind is going to give unprecedented exposure and hopefully convince a lot of other developers that this is the right way to go,” Sivan says.

Mayor Richard Daley has said that he wants Chicago to be the greenest city in America. Perhaps a high-profile green will propel the city closer to this goal, as well as provide a market-based approach to creating sustainable products and business practices. 

“From a purely economic standpoint, if there is demand created for these types of products and services, then more people will provide them,” says Baum. “We’re trying to help in our small way to have a fundamental shift in the products and services that people purchase—just giving them a better alternative.”


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I want to contact Doug and David Baum to find out how I can get aboard this project. I would love to work with them in some capacity. Do you have any contact information so i can call them to set up a meeting?

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