Farmers Market Turns Federal Building Into a City-Wide Destination
The John C. Kluczynski Federal Plaza is one square block in the middle of Chicago’s financial district; it is centrally located, and many pedestrians use it as a shortcut to the Sears Tower. The Federal Building, as well as the Chicago Loop Post Office, are in front of the Plaza, which is also marked by a sculpture, “Flamingo,” by Alexander Calder. The U.S. Dirksen Courthouse, as well as many restaurants, other business offices and a bus stop, are located around the space. The Plaza is used for many programs and events, including a weekly farmers’ market.
Federal Plaza is owned and overseen by the GSA Property Management Office as a part of the federal complex in Chicago. The property manager’s office uses GSA Form 3453, “Application for Use of Space in Public Buildings and Grounds,” to review and approve use of the Plaza by outside parties. Regular events make a blanket application for the season. Events and programs are managed by their sponsoring organizations.
Owned by: The U.S. General Services Administration (GSA).
Maintenance: The GSA’s cleaning contractor maintains the property at Federal Plaza; the flexibility includes some extra hours to clean-up after events and programs. Use of the Plaza includes an agreement with the third party that the GSA will not incur any extra cleaning or security costs.
Security and Hospitality: The GSA provides no more security than it would if there were no events in the Plaza. Chicago bicycle police regularly patrol on the days the farmers’ market is active, and some large event sponsors, such as those for the eight-day Oktoberfest, which is hosted with a nearby restaurant, provide additional security.
Programming: All programming is provided by outside organizations. The farmers market, which operates every Thursday from May to October, is operated jointly by the City of Chicago; because of the positive response from the federal community and downtown businesses, the City now hosts farmers markets in five locations throughout the downtown. The market was the first to be held on non-city property. In addition the Plaza hosts the annual Oktoberfest, a Job Core exercise program, and the public schools “City Year” program for high school seniors, as well as various cultural events, fairs, political rallies and protests.
Marketing and Promotions: GSA does not generally advertise the availability of its public spaces; most organizations approach the GSA on their own to inquire about using the spaces. Because of the Plaza’s central location and visibility, there are many requests. In the warm months the Plaza is used for an average of three days per week.
When the farmers market was first proposed for the Plaza, the Federal Protective Services (FBS) was the only group to raise concern. The FPS and City conducted background checks on all proposed vendors, and the City continues to monitor the standard of food sold and enforce the health codes.
Funding: Other than the BA-54 operating funds already allocated for this facility, funds that cover the administrative costs and occasional extra cleaning necessary after the events, there is no cost to the GSA. The GSA charges the promoter of the event a $25 fee to oversee form processing; the vendors are not charged by the GSA.
Capital Investment: The only recent capital repair was the restoration of “Flamingo” in the spring of 1998. The plaza is renovated as necessary.
Lessons From the John C. Kluczynski Federal Plaza: The Plaza’s regular use for community activities has raised the profile of the Federal Building, and in turn made the Plaza a popular destination. The activity in the Plaza has improved the image of the GSA, helped build partnerships with neighboring institutions and businesses, and generally promoted a sense of community. After the implementation of the farmers market, tenant satisfaction scores increased for the Federal complex. These benefits were realized with very little cost and effort to the GSA, once the procedures were worked out.
U.S. General Services Administration
Assistant Property Manager
City of Chicago
Mayor’s Office of Special Events