A hearty toast to Motor Row Brewing for rehabbing a three-story building on Chicago’s near south side in the area known as Motor Row, a national historic district and City landmark. In the early 1900’s, this four-block stretch of the City’s famous Michigan Avenue housed an elegant set of automobile showrooms. When scouting for the perfect place to situate their brewery, the owners, Bob and Frank Lassandrello, discovered a For Sale sign on a brick structure at 2337 S. Michigan, right in the heart of Motor Row. Fallen into disrepair over the years, the 1910 building and the others surrounding it were ripe for redevelopment.
With a little financial help from City Hall, Motor Row Brewing gutted the interior, installed shiny new brewing tanks, and instituted features to make it lean and green. Where new wood was called for, it came from Chicago ash trees chopped down due to the invasive ash borer. Energy-efficient lighting (like LED bulbs) was placed throughout. And the beer-making process itself? Ingredients--from hops to honey--are often supplied by local farms, and excess water is recycled and used for cleaning. Spent grain is trucked off-site by Nature's Little Recyclers to feed their worms, whose castings make organic fertilizer; this practice cuts way down on the brewery's waste disposal costs. (Fittingly, Reclamation Lager is one of the main choices on tap.)
The renovation was not without challenges: broken green porcelain tiles decorating the historic facade had to be painstakingly replaced by new tiles that matched the intact ones. And, although originally the plan was to install solar panels on the roof, this was foiled when it was discovered that the adjacent taller building to the south blocked out too much sun. The roof does have a reflective white coating to beat back some of the heat on long summer days. The brewery’s ribbon-cutting, attended by Mayor Rahm Emanuel, took place in 2014. In 2016 this former car dealer showroom was awarded LEED Silver certification.