Design with culture and community in mind
When a beloved theater was demolished in Chicago’s Rogers Park neighborhood, what came next didn’t enrich the culture or serve the community. The lot sat vacant for more than a decade — until a new, four-story mixed-use apartment building, financed with City of Chicago Low Income Housing Tax Credits and an Energy Efficiency grant from ComEd, rose up in the theater’s place, providing a much-needed service to residents in need of affordable family housing. The development ushered in 54 affordable family units along with 3,350 square feet of ground-floor retail space, reenergizing the block and creating a new centerpiece for community life.
Sited on a sloping, constricted urban site, the building has three street frontages, presenting a design challenge met by WJW with thoughtful solutions such as stormwater retention tucked below the parking garage. A verdant recreation area with a tot lot invites residents to connect with the outdoors and surrounding community. The new development is among Chicago’s first 100 percent affordable transit-oriented-development (TOD) projects, and also achieved Enterprise Green Communities Silver certification with its focus on design for wellness and energy efficiency.
In spite of the constraints imposed by the site, WJW prioritized access to natural light and views from all residential corridors, as well as floor-to-ceiling glass in dwelling unit living areas. On-site space for behavioral healthcare providers creates a venue for needed services, while the mixed-use design provides opportunities for living, working and connecting with the larger community.
WJW also designed the new residences with local ties in mind. Drawing on a beloved local artistic legacy of vibrant street murals, a Rogers Park artist, Amy Couey, was commissioned to create murals for the building’s elevator lobbies, referencing Rogers Park, Chicago and Lake Michigan. The end result? A new interpretation of an affordable housing, mixed-use project with a nod to the heritage and rich cultural fabric of the community.
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