WIN: West Side YMCA/YWCA Adaptively Reused for Residential Apartments

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“A set of red brick buildings that over the course of a century held first a YMCA/YWCA and later the Salvation Army is set to reopen as apartments for the hot West Loop market. The first renters move in July 1.

“Keeping the buildings standing rather than replacing them with new construction ‘is good news for the great, historic West Side, which has lost so many of its buildings in clearance after the 1968 riots, clearance to build the (Eisenhower) Expressway, clearance to build the United Center,’ said Ward Miller, executive director of Preservation Chicago.

“Wrapping the southeast corner of Monroe Street and Ashland Avenue at the western edge of the West Loop, the connected structures, built between 1907 and 1928 and in differing styles, will have 260 units, all studios and one-bedrooms, positioned as a lower-priced alternative to the increasingly luxury-priced housing options in the West Loop. In that, they’re true to the site’s heritage: In the early decades of the 20th century, newcomers to Chicago often stayed at the Y while looking for a job and housing.

“Turning the old dormitory-style buildings into apartments ‘is an authentic use for these structures, and I feel great about that,” said Mark Heffron, managing partner and chief development officer of Cedar Street, the development firm behind the revamp.

“Cedar Street has previously converted several vintage buildings into apartments, including an Uptown synagogue and the palatial Bush Temple of Music on Chicago Avenue.

“The buildings at Monroe and Ashland will be christened the Duncan, evoking the old name Duncan YMCA/YWCA, which honored a financial endowment for the Y provided by Joseph Duncan, the inventor of the Addressograph labeling machine. It had previously been called the West Side YMCA/YWCA.

“The rehab preserves one of the old Y gymnasiums, swimming pool and a sports yard in the back, all to be used as tenant amenities. The Duncan will also have a large lobby that doubles as a social area, coffeehouse and a bar. Those last two will be open to the public. The second gymnasium was converted into apartments, some of which still have the old-fashioned hardwood basketball floor.” (Rodkin, 6/24/20)

“The West Side YMCA/YWCA complex is a handsome and intact grouping of Classical Revival and Georgian Revival buildings. Stretching over two city blocks, the West Side YMCA/YWCA buildings form a cohesive complex. The complex served as a regional headquarters for the Chicago YMCA and an important center for social, educational, and recreational activities on the Near West Side neighborhood for nearly seventy years.

“During the first half of the twentieth century, the YMCA and YWCA developed a comprehensive roster of programs and services at its West Side complex that helped young men and women, many of whom were recent immigrants, to assimilate, learn English, find jobs, and maintain a moral compass while living in the city. With dormitories for men and women, the West Side YMCA/YWCA also offered clean and safe lodging for hundreds of young people. During World War I and World War II, ‘the Y’ was also an importance center of services and activity for soldiers and returning veterans.

“Architecturally, the buildings in the West Side YMCA/YWCA complex reflect a range of classical influences, with each building designed with slightly different but compatible ornament and detailing. The organization took seriously their responsibility to build facilities that were not only functional but also visually pleasing and an asset to their neighborhoods. The various architects that designed the different phases of the West Side YMCA/YWCA complex were all well respected Chicago firms that designed other ‘Y’ facilities in Chicago and throughout the country.

‘The complex is located at the corner of Monroe Street and Ashland Avenue on Chicago’s Near West Side. The buildings, which range in height from three and a half to six stories, are all faced with red brick and have limestone and/or terra cotta trim, offering a fairly uniform appearance from the street. 1513-15 W. Monroe was designed by architect Robert C. Berlin in 1907. The façade is trimmed with brick-quoins at the corners, and has a limestone belt courses. 1521 – 1529 W. Monroe was designed by architect Robert C. Berlin in 1912. This building combines Classical Revival features with stone detailing characteristic of the Prairie Style. Duncan Hall at 1531 – 1539 W. Monroe was designed by architect Perkins, Chatten & Hammond in 1928 with Georgian Revival-style building elements.” (Preliminary Landmarks Report, City of Chicago, June 7, 2018)

Read the full story at Crain’s Chicago Business

Historical YMCA/YWCA buildings to reopen as West Loop apartments, the 260 units, all studios and one-bedrooms, are positioned as a lower-priced alternative to the increasingly luxury-priced housing options in the neighborhood, Dennis Rodkin, Crain’s Chicago Business, 6/24/20

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