Green Exchange devoted to advancing sustainable marketplace

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Green weddings: David Baum looks at photographs of Greenhouse Loft photographer, Steve Ewert, who hosts green weddings at the Greenhouse Loft, which is at the Green Exchange in Chicago. During warmer months, outdoor weddings are performed in the gardens with a reception in the refurbished great room. | Mary Compton ~ For Sun-Times Media

About the space

The Green Exchange building at 2545 W. Diversey in Chicago boasts several sustainable attributes:

A 41,000-gallon rain cistern

An 8,000-square-foot garden that hosts chickens and honey bees

The interior gets loads of natural light. A U-shaped floor plan and design ensures a window is never more than 100 feet away from any point. Co-developer David Baum says this makes people feel better and be more productive.

An escalator that uses 30 percent less energy than typical ones

A state-of-the-art HVAC system, which gives the inside air an almost soft feeling

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The Green Exchange, a retail and office space in the Logan Square neighborhood of Chicago devoted to green business, has passed the one-year mark of being open. Today, it’s a place where businesses can live green and prosper.

Green Exchange’s website states it’s the largest sustainable business community in the country. Baum Realty purchased the landmark building in 2008, and David Baum, co-developer, said he spent two years focusing on getting back the financing lost from the financial crisis.

But having a big, beautiful green building means nothing unless there are tenants to support it. And for Baum, now that the financing is complete, he said he focuses much of his time working with tenants, acting as a mentor and to help them connect with others in Green Exchange.

“They advance the green marketplace,” he said.

The 272,000-square-foot building has always been a place of commerce. It was originally erected in 1913 to house an underwear company that first made “union suits” then later, bras and men’s briefs. In the 1960s, it was home to the Cooper Lighting Company, whose sign was a fixture for drivers on the Kennedy Expressway.

Thought the old sign is gone, a billboard on the side of the five-story building bearing the building’s name is visible from the Kennedy today. The billboard caught the eye of Shannon Downey, owner of Pivotal Productions, who was looking for a space to house her new green events-planning business.

In Downey’s industry, connecting people with brands and other messages is paramount. Conveniently, Green Exchange has a cache of like-minded businesses with innovative missions and products just a short walk away in its halls.

“It’s more about a community than the actual building,” Downey said.

Before the building officially opened mid-2011, Baum Realty organized quarterly networking events so tenants could meet.

“We started working with some tenants right after we met them,” Downey said. For example, she added, “We do all our banking with GreenChoice Bank.”

The bank was one of the first tenants to move into Green Exchange in August 2011, said Steve Sherman, GreenChoice Bank’s executive vice president.

“Green Exchange was an obvious choice when we were starting up,” he said, noting the convenient location and community of like-minded businesses.

GreenChoice is a community bank that considers environmental and social responsibility as important as financial responsibility. Since moving in, Sherman said the bank has increased business 25 to 35 percent over the last year in terms of assets.

“We refer business to other tenants too,” he said. “There is a nice synergy with the tenants there.”

One of the newcomers to Green Exchange is Advanced Custom Energy Solutions, a year-old LED lighting solutions company who signed a lease with the building in November 2012. But it wasn’t the company’s only considered space. Lucas Payne, product director, said the company looked at a business incubator in Pilsen and the Chicago Center for Green Technology.

“This has more of an organic feel,” Payne said, referring to the interior’s palette of soft green, natural wood and exposed concrete.

Baum said the Green Exchange’s five floors are about 90 percent leased. Future plans include a “world cafe” restaurant near the center of the building as well as an expansion to a neighboring building. He expects Green Exchange’s coveted LEED Platinum certification to be completed “any day now.” (They’re waiting on some paperwork from third-party engineers.)

For all the time and money spent in helping create Green Exchange, Baum emphasizes his commitment to fostering the businesses that call it home.

“It’s about the tenants and what they do,” he said.