WIN: Rapid Roller Printing Building to Become Affordable Residential Lofts

“Solar panels may soon cover the Near South Side rooftop that used to hold a big sign that read ‘Muhammad Speaks.”
“The city Plan Commission at its meeting today will consider rezoning a 1920s printing factory building for residential use. If it’s approved, 548 Capital will begin work developing 47 apartments in the four-story structure, with solar panels installed on top.
“From 1969 until sometime in the 1980s, the brick and stone building at 2548 S. Federal St. was owned by a wing of the Nation of Islam that produced its newspaper, Muhammad Speaks, with a peak press run of 800,000 weekly and the name of the newspaper spelled out in a rooftop sign.
“‘It’s pretty cool that we’re putting solar on this historic building,” said A.J. Patton, the principal of 548 Capital, a development firm he founded with a core focus on using solar and other sustainable technologies in residential projects.
Solar Lofts / Rapid Roller Printing Building, 1928, Schmid & Ryan, 2548 S. Federal St. Rendering Credit: Gregory Ramon Design Studio / 548 Capital
“Solar would power at least all common elements of the building, including its two elevators, and probably more, Patton said. He does not yet know how much of the power needs inside the apartments would be supplied, as full measurements have not yet been completed. ‘When we’ve sized the solar system, we’ll be able to say X percent of their power will be solar,’ Patton said.
“The $22 million project would be funded in part by $5.2 million from megadeveloper Sterling Bay. For its 30-story apartment tower at 160 N. Morgan, Sterling Bay opted to provide the funds to 548 Capital rather than include affordable units, under the requirements of the city’s Affordable Rental Ordinance. As a result, 28 of the 47 units at the Federal Street building will be offered as affordable housing for people who meet the income guidelines.
Rapid Roller Printing Building, 1928, Schmid & Ryan, 2548 S. Federal St. Image Credit: Chicago Tribune January 28, 1928
“The Federal Street building opened in 1928 as home of Rapid Roller, a printing firm. That was the appeal for the nation of Islam in 1969, when it wanted an office for its newspaper that would rival the handsome homes of other Black publications based in Chicago, Ebony and the Chicago Defender, according to ‘A House for the Struggle: The Black Press and the Built Environment,’ a book by E. James West published this year.
“The initials RR, for Rapid Roller, are still visible in carved ornament over the main door of the building. East of the site on 26th Street are a former factory that went residential more than a decade ago, Opera Lofts, and a 2020 conversion to apartments, Kissel Car Lofts. Also close by are the Moody Tongue brewery and adjacent restaurants.” (Rodkin, Crain’s Chicago Business, 9/15/22)

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