Steelcase Leaving THE MART for Fulton Market

Steelcase, one of the largest and most important furniture brands at THE MART, is leaving the iconic Chicago building for the trendy Fulton Market neighborhood after this year’s NeoCon. Steelcase currently anchors one of the largest and most prominent locations on the third floor and will move to a 28,000-square-foot space at 811 West Fulton Market Street, ironically, in the space Knoll chose after it became the first major company to leave THE MART.

It is another blow to THE MART’s commercial furniture floors and NeoCon, which began in 2018 when Knoll moved out of the building to Fulton Market. Since then, commercial real estate developers have aggressively poached contract furnishing companies and enticed them to move to Fulton Market, a hot Chicago neighborhood just over a mile from THE MART.

Steelcase has been at THE MART for more than 50 years and is planning to relocate to Fulton Market in 2025. Photos by OI.

Knoll was followed by Herman Miller, Teknion, Humanscale and the HNI brands. OFS announced its plans to leave THE MART earlier this year and a number of smaller brands have followed.

Byron Morton, vice president and co-head of leasing at Vornado Realty Trust, which owns THE MART and NeoCon, said he tried negotiating a new lease with Steelcase for the past nine months and said he was disappointed to lose the brand and called the company’s decision unfortunate.

Companies that have moved to Fulton Market have used advertising trucks to lure NeoCon attendees to the neighborhood.

“It’s an overall setback, but between our strategies, new building amenities and year round activation of the space, THE MART still remains the center of design,” he said.

Although those leaving THE MART never planned for it, the spaces they are vacating in the building are being filled with smaller, up-and-coming brands, giving them a stage they never had since space in THE MART was limited. Last year, THE MART inked 68 new deals for 170,000 square feet of space. This year, THE MART already has new leases totaling 20,000 square feet, with another 15,000 square feet under negotiation.

During a recent NeoCon, Steelcase showed off its desk inspired by work with Frank Lloyd Wright.

All eyes at THE MART are also on Turf, a brand focused on acoustics that is moving from a 4,000 square foot showroom to a 20,000 square foot innovation center that will bring the company’s research and design to the building along with dozens of new full time jobs. Many are watching to see if this creative use of the space at THE MART will spread with other companies activating showrooms into spaces used throughout the year.

“For us, the plan is to continue to provide a platform for brands that are meaningful to the industry. We are seeing a lot more ancillary brands showing interest. There’s a lot to be excited about,” Morton said.

Despite the brands leaving THE MART, the building remains the center of design in Chicago.

Steelcase will remain in THE MART through NeoCon with plans to open its new showroom in Spring 2025. Steelcase sent a statement about its move and said no other details would be provided at this time.

“We are excited to announce that we have decided to move our Chicago showroom from The Merchandise Mart to 811 West Fulton Market in Spring of 2025,” in a statement attributed to Brad Doan, vice president of brand communications. “Fulton Market is a vibrant and thriving Chicago neighborhood where the industry is clustering and it’s become an important destination for the design community. This move will include an expansive range of solutions from the Steelcase community of brands.

New experiences are definitely coming for Steelcase as it prepares to move out of THE MART to a Fulton Market showroom.

“For over five decades, Steelcase and our community of brands have delivered great Chicago-based experiences in THE MART. And while THE MART has served us well over the years, we constantly monitor the needs of the market and the behavior of customers, and this work informs every element of our showroom strategy. We shortlisted several locations in and outside of Fulton Market as a part of our market research. Ultimately, 811 West Fulton was the best overall solution for our business and our partners.”

If 811 West Fulton sounds like a familiar address, that because it has been the home of Knoll since it moved out of THE MART. According to a story in The Real Deal real estate news, Boston-based landlord Intercontinental Real Estate landed the lease with Steelcase for about 28,000-square-feet. It is a much smaller footprint than the 40,000 square feet that Steelcase has in THE MART, and it is rumored that the other Steelcase brands like Designtex and HALCON are moving to Fulton Market as well.

THE MART has attracted new tenants to the iconic Chicago building even as it loses majors.

According to Real Deal, MillerKnoll is going to take about 23,000 square feet in a 10-year-lease at 1144 West Fulton Market, much closer to Herman Miller’s 40,000 square foot Fulton Market location at 1100 West Fulton.

With most of the largest brands in the industry now lost to Fulton Market, it calls into question the Best of NeoCon contest. Brands outside THE MART have not been allowed to participate in the past and Morton said no decision has been made that would allow them to be included in the contest. The brands that have moved to Fulton Market are not officially part of NeoCon, though they have held Fulton Market Design Days at the same time to capitalize on the 50,000 visitors NeoCon attracts to the city in June.

The largest commercial tenant at THE MART remains Haworth. Though many have speculated about Haworth’s plans at THE MART, Morton said despite rumors to the contrary, there is no clause in Haworth’s contract (or any other contract) that if another major left, they would be released from their lease.

Steelcase’s 40,000 square feet of space in THE MART was always one of the most popular showrooms during NeoCon.
When Steelcase moves to its new location in Fulton Market, it will be in a showroom nearly half the size of its space in THE MART.
Steelcase was attracted to Fulton Market, in part, because of its growing cluster of contract furniture makers.