Chicago Tech Center 1871 Hard Hat Tour

I spent Saturday afternoon on the 12th floor of Merchandise Mart, tagging along on round three of 1871’s ever popular hard hat tours.

If you haven’t heard of 1871 yet, it’s a non-profit space meant to cater to the growing tech and entrepreneurial community in Chicago. Local startups will be able to take advantage of mentorship programs, educational sessions and meeting rooms all in a modern-looking shared workspace.

1871 takes its name from year of the Chicago fire, harkening to thoughts of renewal, rebuilding and a rise to greatness. Perhaps foreshadowing what’s to come?

Local tech community pioneers Matt Moog, Kevin Willer and Steve Collens are spearheading the efforts at 1871 because they see a hopeful future in Chicago’s burgeoning tech community; thanks in great part to Groupon, stats show that Chicago startups raised $1.45 billion in funding last year.

Willer, who will be heading up operational efforts, says the goal of 1871 is not just to build the next “Groupon, but the next Google, or the next GrubHub – really creating a place where in the next five years, or ten years, we can look back and say, ‘This is where a lot of great tech companies in Chicago got started.’” A lofty goal to be sure. Let’s take a look inside!

chicago startup

Steve Collens, Instigator at 1871, leads tours of the 50,000 square foot space at historic Merchandise Mart. The space, formerly home to local art exhibitions on the 12th floor of the massive complex, is stripped down to bare concrete and covered in white paint from floor to ceiling. That stark white appearance is about to change in a big way. A partnership with the Chicago Artist’s Commission is in the works, and the white walls will soon be adorned with graffiti by local artists.

When finished 1871 will fit 100 reserved members and 220 shared members. Thinking of taking up residence? Demand is expected to outweigh the number of seats available, so a committee will make decisions on who makes the cut. Three levels of membership will be available: Reserved at $400/month, Shared at $250/month and Night & Weekend at $125/month. Find more info about memberships here.

chicago startupLocations within the space include a proposed cafe to be outsourced to a yet unnamed tenant, conference rooms, an event room with a 250 person capacity, an “accelerator space” for sharing concepts with advisors, classrooms, reserved meeting space, and other workspace necessities like lockers, microwaves, refrigerators and a mail room.

Corporate sponsors ComCast and Cisco will provide connective capabilities, including wi-fi, audio-visual and web conferencing capabilities.

The space is set to open Spring 2012.

Want to see more images of the 1871 space under construction? Check out our Pinterest board.