In April, anti-poverty organization Heartland Alliance and lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgendered, and queer (LGBTQ) community group Center on Halsted will break ground on the Midwest’s first affordable housing development aimed at LGBTQ senior citizens.
Situated at 3600 North Halsted—the site of the Lakeview town hall before Chicago annexed the north side city in 1889—the affordable housing development will be open to anyone, but is intended to provide a social safety net for LGBTQ seniors. Gensler, which is designing the project, is calling the building “Town Hall” in a nod to the location’s history and its community-focused future.
The Center first noticed the need for senior housing when it discovered that 23 percent of its public programs were geared toward the elderly. Residents of the new building must have an annual income below $32,000. The developers are seeking subsidies so no tenant will pay more than 30 percent of their income for rent.
The mixed-use project includes the adaptive reuse of a historic 1907 police station and will include 80 studio and one-bedroom apartments, as well as retail space and community rooms for classes and events on the first floor. Outreach sessions helped the architects determine the needs of the building’s users, leading to the inclusion of shared dining and kitchen spaces for entertaining guests.
Located at the corner of Halsted and Addison next door to the Center, whose facility was also designed by Gensler, the seven-story development will replace two 1930s buildings and repurpose the recently landmarked police station. Except for an emergency access driveway occasionally used by the police from their new station down the street on Addison, the new project will fill out the block. Angled green and blue panels provide a changing profile to passersby, while the exterior color palette draws on tones found in neighboring architectural elements. The historic police station will retain its copper cornice, pressed tin ceilings, and glazed brick, but Gensler is altering its circulation to improve accessibility for the elderly.
A second floor terrace atop the ground-floor retail space will serve as the building’s “front yard,” according to Gensler project architect Michael Hanley, featuring raised beds for gardening and landscaping designed by Chicago-based Christy Webber Landscapes. The design attempts to screen second-floor windows for privacy while permitting daylight into the interior.
Gensler’s Jason Hall designed the interiors. They offer a variation on everyday rituals to achieve “uniquely normal” spaces, said Hanley. Contemporary furnishings with a kitschy, homey feel and a 17-color palette create a lively aesthetic while avoiding direct depictions of rainbows.
Construction is scheduled for completion in August 2014.