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Fairgrounds World’s Fair is Fueling a ‘Metroburb’ in Chicagoland

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The Bell Works Chicago business campus, formerly a corporate headquarters of AT&T. All images courtesy of Bell Works.

In a sure sign that we are living in the future and that all that was old is new again, Chicagoland’s first “metroburb” is now open, with regional chain Fairgrounds Coffee & Tea providing some much-needed fuel.

The “metroburb” concept is widely attributed to New Jersey-based developer Inspired by Somerset Development, which first applied it to a former research-and-development facility previously owned by Bell Labs in New Jersey. Now the label comes to a former AT&T corporate campus in the north Chicago suburb of Hoffman Estates.

The firm described a metroburb as “a self-contained metropolis in suburbia.”

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In New Jersey and Illinois, the developer reimagined the former corporate campuses as snazzy new “community hubs,” with offices attracting younger businesses, ground-floor retail shops, dining, residences, community gathering spaces and more.

With a sprawling cafe concept called Fairgrounds World’s Fair, Fairgrounds Coffee & Tea is the first food-and-beverage tenant to open on the 150-acre Chicagoland Bell Works campus.

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The new Fairgrounds World’s Fair cafe at Bell Works Chicago.

The shop offers 137 indoor seats, as well as an outdoor patio with 45 seats. The 5,743-square foot indoor space is includes a full-service kitchen for a seasonally inspired menu and bakery, and a cocktail bar with beer and wine on tap. As with all Fairgrounds locations, the cafe offers a broad array of coffees, teas and cold beverages.

Fairgrounds is the flagship cafe brand of Chicago-based food-and-beverage operations and management firm Infuse Hospitality. Since first opening in Chicago’s Bucktown/Wicker Park area in 2017, the brand has since expanded to 10 locations in Chicagoland, Wisconsin, Los Angeles, Minneapolis and Dallas.

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The Fairgrounds World’s Fair at Bell Works was designed by Barker/Nestor Architecture and Design, with input from Wight & Company Architects and Npz Studio+.

According to an announcement from Bell Works, the design focuses on turn-of-the-20th-century Chicago glamor with rustic and whimsical furniture chosen to elicit warmth and nostalgia. There is also a foosball table.

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