NuMat’s lease provided an important validation point for the project, as IBT sought to attract tenants to a location that was entirely unproven as a corporate destination and lacked public transport access. While developers of the trendy Fulton Market district or Lincoln Yards’ new lab building are looking for tenants who want research space and the amenities of a modern office building, NuMat is moving to a neighborhood that rarely attracts companies like it, And buildings are considered at a disadvantage in pursuing such science-focused tenants. The company’s move could help attract other similar tenants to the terminal and provide a boost to Mayor Lori Lightfoot’s efforts to boost economic development and jobs in run-down neighborhoods in the city’s south and west.
It’s unclear what prompted NuMat to expand and relocate its space, and spokespeople for NuMat and Terminal declined to comment on the deal. NuMat follows in the footsteps of quantum computing startup EeroQ, which signed a small lease in late 2021 to become the terminal’s first tenant. EeroQ praised the stability of the buildings at the time — a dilapidated, 250,000-square-foot former locomotive headlamp factory complex when IBT and Mansueto acquired them in 2020 — and their isolation from outside noise. Isolation is a key feature that makes them well suited for research.
Sources familiar with the plans said NuMat was expected to build offices, research and manufacturing operations at the terminal.
NuMat was co-founded in 2013 by Northwestern University graduate Ben Hernandez and NU chemistry professor Omar Farha. The company won high-profile contracts in its early years, with customers including the U.S. Department of Defense and Versum Materials, which makes specialty gases and chemicals used to make computer chips. One of NuMat’s most famous inventions is the atomic-scale sponge, which can store or separate gases more efficiently than current methods that typically involve compressing or significantly cooling the gas.
Hernandez — now the company’s CEO — told Crain’s in 2018 that NuMat had raised $12.4 million to continue its research, bringing its total capital backing to $20 million at the time. He also said that NuMat plans to increase the number of employees from 20 to 30 by mid-2019. The company currently lists more than 50 people on the employee page of its website and has seven job openings listed.
NuMat’s imminent departure from the ISTP campus in Skokie presents a new lease challenge for Chicago-based Singerman Real Estate, which paid more than $7,500 in October 2021 for the adjoining laboratory facility building at 8025 and 8045 Lamon Ave. Ten thousand U.S. dollars. Together, the buildings were 81% leased at the time.
Singerman President and Managing Partner Seth Singerman praised NuMat as a “good tenant” for ISTP and said his building has “very good prospects with both our existing tenants and new tenants” as the company spends money renovating common areas and building infrastructure.
The ISTP campus will also soon welcome its first hotel, with Chicago-based E&M Strategic Development building the 143-room Homewood Suites by Hilton slated to open later this year.
CBRE Executive Vice President David Saad represented NuMat in negotiating the terminal lease. Doug Hayes and Zach Pruitt of Cawley Chicago oversaw the leasing of the property.