A Little Village factory that opened in 2019 to produce lower-cost modular homes has been forced to shut down because it couldn’t raise capital to continue, its chief backer said Friday.
Mark Skender, CEO of Skender Manufacturing, said economic conditions stemming from the pandemic forced him to close the operation Thursday at 3348 S. Pulaski. He said he laid off about 25 people. Last year, Skender had ambitions of employing 150 people at the site.
The venture was launched in May 2019 in cooperation with the Chicago Regional Council of Carpenters, which provided union labor.
Mayor Lori Lightfoot attended a dedication of the 105,000-square-foot facility then, promising the modular homes would “improve access to sustainable housing, prevent homelessness and ensure that as Chicago grows all of our neighbors can afford to grow, too.”
But Skender said lenders were unwilling to support the operation because COVID-19 continues to weigh on the economy. “We had the sales. We had the production backlog to be successful,” he said.
He said he still believes modular homes, with main components built off-site, will help address the crisis in housing affordability. Asked if he would restart the business if conditions improve, Skender said. “It’s a possibility. You never know what the future will bring.”
But for now, Skender intends to offer the property on a sublease.
City officials had hoped for a public benefit from a building that was an indirect burden on taxpayers. The Chicago Sun-Times has reported the 3348 S. Pulaski site was part of a property portfolio that cost public pension funds $54 million after outside fund managers, including a nephew of former Mayor Richard M. Daley, made ill-timed investments.
The carpenters union, which has an ownership stake in Sun-Times Media, had no immediate comment.