DENCO Construction LLC
Originally the Catalog Printing Building for Sears, Roebuck & Co.’s main administrative complex on Chicago’s West Side, the new Lofts on Arthington is home to 181 affordable housing units for low-income families. Located in the North Lawndale neighborhood, the preserved property is a City of Chicago local landmark, a National Historic Landmark, and a part of the protected Homan Square Residential District. MHA Chicago worked with non-profit affordable housing developer Mercy Housing Lakefront to ensure the success of the large-scale adaptive reuse project by providing historic preservation consultation on the federal historic tax credit application.
In addition to the Lofts on Arthington, MHA Chicago has consulted on two other rehabilitations at the complex. The former Powerhouse (now the Charles H. Shaw Learning and Technology Center) and Merchandise Tower (now an office facility called the Nichols Tower) also received federal historic tax credits.
At the turn of the twentieth century, Sears, Roebuck & Co. (or simply “Sears” as it came to be known) was a mail-order retail giant known nationwide, much like today’s Walmart or Amazon. Sears was the area’s primary employer for 70 years, employing families for generations. The six-story Catalog Printing Building, designed by architects Nimmons & Fellows, housed printing facilities for Sears’ iconic mail order catalog from its initial completion in 1905 until 1923, and at one point housed the world’s largest privately-operated press room. After 1923, the building housed Sears’ laboratories for merchandise development and testing for 40 years.
After 1973, when Sears, Roebuck & Co. relocated to the SOM-designed Sears Tower in downtown Chicago, the North Lawndale Sears complex was mostly vacant, and its surrounding neighborhood suffered from lack of investment. The Catalog Printing Building sat vacant for many years and fell into a critical state of disrepair. Vandals destroyed historic materials, mercury (likely leaked from thermometers in the building’s product testing laboratories) was found tracked through the building’s interior, and a failing roof had accelerated the building’s deterioration process.
Mercy Housing Lakefront financed the $65 million rehabilitation through low-income housing tax credits (LIHTCs) and federal historic tax credits, with additional funding provided by the Chicago Housing Authority, the Federal Home Loan Bank of Chicago, and the Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity.
The main lobby was restored to its original 1916 appearance and over 100,000 square feet of flooring were replaced throughout the building. The building’s exterior brick, limestone, and terra cotta were fully cleaned and repaired. Intact windows at the primary Arthington Street façade were retained and repaired and remaining deteriorated windows were replaced to match.
The new development includes 4,000 square feet of education service space, pre-K educational programs, in-unit neonatal health care, and 7,600 square-feet of outdoor patio and green space. Other community services include a technology center, fitness room, job training, and 24/7 security. The property is also within walking distance of public transportation, public schools, and a grocery and community shopping center.
- ULI Americas | 2020 Jack Kemp Excellence in Affordable and Workforce Housing Award
- Landmarks Illinois | 2019 Richard H. Driehaus Foundation Preservation Award for Historic Rehabilitation
- Commission on Chicago Landmarks | 2019 Preservation Excellence Award
- Affordable Housing Tax Credit Coalition | 2018 Charles L. Edson Tax Credit Excellence Award - Metropolitan Housing (Honorable Mention)
- ULI Chicago | 2018 Vision Award for Historic Adaptive Re-Use
- Affordable Housing Finance Magazine | 2017 Readers' Choice Award for Historic Rehab
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