More development is slated for Pullman, the Far South Side neighborhood that is home to Chicago’s Pullman National Monument.
Veteran roasters based in Chicago he has plans for a coffee roastery, a coffee shop, a microbrewery and a two-story restaurant that he says could create 55 to 65 jobs for local veterans. The 16,000-square-foot project is planned for vacant land west of 111th Street and Doty Avenue, near the Pullman National Monument Visitor Center.
The project comes as part of a steady stream of new investment in the neighborhood, which since the opening of the visitor center on Labor Day in 2021 has seen the addition of a Wing Stop and a Culver’s, its first new independent restaurant in three decades. Last month, Chicago Neighborhood Initiatives, which has worked on much of the recent development in Pullman, announced plans for a Hampton by Hilton hotel on vacant land in the neighborhood. The Bielenberg Historic Pullman Foundation, one of many civic organizations dedicated to historic preservation and education in the neighborhood, plans to open a cafe later this year. in a long empty mansion in front of the monument site.
Mark Doyle, owner and founder of Veteran Roasters, said the cafe-brewery project could start next spring and open in early 2024. The project is still subject to approval by the city’s Plan Commission, Chicago said. Neighborhood Initiatives in a press release. CNI is selling the vacant lot to Veteran Roasters for $375,000, Doyle said.
Doyle said he was impressed by existing efforts to revive development at Pullman. CNI says that over the past decade, it has helped secure more than $400 million in public and private funding in the neighborhood that has helped create nearly 2,000 jobs.
“I’ve walked through the neighborhood several times to see how many people take pride in that neighborhood and move there, build and rebuild their homes,” Doyle said. “I thought it would be cool to be a part of this.”
Veteran Roasters now roasts its coffee at a facility at 328 N. Albany Street in East Garfield Park. The pandemic hit the business hard, which had been focused on providing coffee to restaurants and hotels. He switched to selling his roasts online, but is still down from nine full-time employees before the pandemic to four, all veterans, Doyle said. Doyle’s screen printing company and Veteran Roasters’ parent company, Rags of Honor, also employ four veterans.
Doyle said he hadn’t yet made a decision on whether Veteran Roasters will continue to brew at East Garfield Park or if its entire operation will move to the Pullman site. Its Pullman microbrewery partner will be Haymarket Brewing, he said.
Veteran Roasters was awarded $2 million in Neighborhood Opportunity Fund dollars for the Pullman project in 2019; the city’s program uses money generated from downtown development to fund commercial projects in underserved neighborhoods. It is also scheduled to receive $3 million from the state this fiscal year from the Build Illinois Bond Fund administered by the Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity.
Doyle estimates that the project could cost about $7.4 million in total; Veteran Roasters hopes to fill the gap with a combination of new market tax credits and private financing or a bank loan.
The project is supported by Ward 9 Ald. Antony Beale.
“This is going to be a continuing piece of the puzzle for the renaissance we have in the Roseland-Pullman community,” Beale said.
Most jobs at the cafeteria-brewery will likely be full-time, Doyle said. Veteran Roasters pays between $18 and $22 an hour.
The Veteran Roasters project will seat between 75 and 100 people. Neighborhood residents often cite sit-down dining as a priority for business development in the neighborhood.
Over the summer, Beale described development at Pullman as “a half-baked cake.”
Tourism numbers have grown more slowly than expected, National Parks Superintendent Teri Gage told the Tribune last summer.
Gage estimated that about 500 people passed through the visitor center each week, down from the 750 to 1,000 he initially anticipated. A 2013 National Parks Conversation Association study found that a National Historical Park in Pullman could attract 300,000 visitors each year in its 10th full year of operation. The monument is not currently designated a national park, though legislation sponsored by Sen. Dick Durbin and Rep. Robin Kelly to change its designation and, advocates hope, increase its visibility, passed a Senate committee last summer. .