UL Research to bring collaboration, business to downtown Evanston


Illustration by Gemma DeCetra

UL Research Institutes, a global safety science organization, studies challenges such as fire, chemical, digital and battery safety.

Nora Collins, Copy Editor

UL Research Institutes and UL Standards & Engagements— two safety science organizations under the UL enterprise — will relocate their headquarters from Northbrook, Illinois to Evanston, the company announced Dec. 7. According to UL’s website, ULRI is a nonprofit research organization, focusing on scientific discovery, and ULSE is a nonprofit standards development and advocacy organization, focusing on improving safety standards.

The Evanston headquarters will act as support functions for UL’s satellite labs located across the country. Its move will bring more than 200 employees to 53,000 square feet of leased space at 1603 Orrington Ave., according to Kristen Delphos, the vice president of corporate communications and public relations for UL Research Institutes.

“We’ve been happy in Northbrook for many years, but we’re out of space and quite frankly, looking for a transit-oriented location,” Delphos said. “Evanston is uniquely situated in a vibrant area with a well-educated, diverse resident and employee population.” 

Delphos said, given current construction guidance, the company is looking towards an October move-in date, eventually occupying the top four floors of Orrington Plaza. 

She added that the floor plans reflect the company’s desire for collaborative, modern places to work — a shift, she said, from their current space in Northbrook. 

“As a convener of our different stakeholder groups, we have partners from government, academia, manufacturing and consumer organizations who will be visiting our Evanston headquarters frequently in collaboration for advancing safety,” Delphos said. 

UL plans to hold an annual research symposium, which will bring academics and other stakeholders to the space. 

The company will also collaborate with existing institutions, such as Northwestern’s Center for Advancing Safety of Machine Intelligence. 

“In addition to our own people, we’re really building out a space (where) we can bring the community and our stakeholders together who are interested in the work that we do,” Delphos said.

According to Annie Coakley, the executive director of Downtown Evanston, a business non-profit, the move provides a hopeful prospect for the city’s economy. She said office leasing and business has yet to fully rebound from the COVID-19 pandemic and the corresponding transition to remote workspaces.

Having more people work in an office setting supports business and tax dollars, as employees shop around for morning coffee, join gyms and get haircuts, she said. 

“Work from home is sticking around,” said Coakley. “We have several tenants that have downsized or completely given their space back.”

Jean Murphy, co-owner of YoFresh Cafe, said she sees the move as positive for small businesses. 

The cafe is about a six-minute drive from UL’s new headquarters, and Murphy said she hopes its location will bring potential customers into stores downtown and possibly to other business districts. 

“As one of the founders of the Black Business Consortium of Evanston, I can say — representing all of the businesses — Bring it on!” said Murphy. “It’s a win-win situation for everybody.”

UL Research Institutes is also looking to house its new Materials Discovery lab in the Chicago area, potentially in Evanston, according to Delphos.

“We’re very committed to giving back to the communities in which we live and work,” said Delphos. “We envision ourselves as being a truly solid partner for the community of Evanston.”

Correction: A previous version of this story misstated which organizations under the UL enterprise are moving to Evanston. The Daily regrets the error.

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Twitter: @noracollins02

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