Back on the grid

Listening to the community at Sullivan Station

Designing a new development on Chicago’s South Side was an extraordinary opportunity to participate in revitalizing a neighborhood and collaborating with a community on shaping its direction. It was a chance to bring good design and urban planning to a historically troubled building type. Sullivan Station Apartments received an Award of Merit from the Congress for the New Urbanism in the 2015 Charter Awards program.

Mid-century urban renewal tore apart this low-rise South Side neighborhood to make way for a large public housing development. But the three high-rise buildings known as the Lake Michigan Homes had become unlivable by the mid-‘90s and were in turn torn-down. Decades earlier, the area was home to a Louis Sullivan-designed railway station which inspired the new name for this place.

1 Midrise View from Southeast

Today, at the new Sullivan Station, people of different economic means coexist, enjoying its park, its playground and access to Chicago’s urban core and Lake Michigan shoreline. A mid-rise apartment building and twelve low-rise buildings are the first structures to rebuild the neighborhood and reinforce the street grid, re-establishing the disrupted urban fabric. In contrast to the high-density towers on a low density site it replaced, Sullivan Station’s 81-unit, 8-story building (which steps down to 4-stories on its west side) and 13 low-rise buildings cover a larger portion of the site.

13 Lowrise Building at Dusk

All of Sullivan Station’s mid-rise apartments were occupied soon after they became available

A variety of affordable, subsidized and market-rate rentable apartments are made available to an area in need of all three. For sale property will become available in the project’s next phase. New development in this area required input from the community, which is cautious about change in light of previous waves of destruction. The community planning process and the community’s expressed desire for relevant design details resulted in the incorporation of orange Norman brick, stone lintels, sills and belt courses and painted floor-to-ceiling bay windows. Sullivan Station’s look is designed to harmonize with the existing vintage masonry houses of the neighborhood.

12 Lowrise Building in Alternate Color

Low-rise buildings celebrate the neighborhood’s vintage masonry

Smart design features include placement of units for larger families (3-4 BR units) in low-rise structures and smaller units (1-2BR units) in the mid-rise building. Town house and middle rental units will feature the same visible ceiling heights making them indistinguishable. As with traditional Chicago neighborhoods, Sullivan Station’s alleys allow tenant access to off-street parking and trash collection areas out of sight from the street.

The new 81-unit, eight-story apartment building features a mix of 1BR and 2BR apartments for individuals, couples and small families, plus common amenities for tenants, social services offices and parking. Three levels of structured parking on the site’s interior offer parking for 81 cars. The ground floor features recreation space and social services.

17 Midrise Two-Story Lobby

Two-story lobby in Sullivan Station’s mid-rise apartment building

Mid-rise units provide comfortable areas for living, dining and sleeping. Living-dining spaces feature large bay windows that add floor space and afford broad views to the lake and the city.

The prominent entrance is a generous two-story space with large windows. The building steps down to four stories on its west side, in deference to vintage two-story homes on the west side of South Lake Park Avenue. The building’s sustainable features (rain gardens, storm water storage and vegetated roofing) helped earn it a LEED Silver certification by the USGBC in 2014.

14 Lowrise Entrance Detail

Similarly to the mid-rise building, the thirteen low-rise (three-story) buildings maximize living and sleeping space and feature large bay windows with broad street views. There are no steps up to entrances, so that disabled-accessible units are indistinguishable from other units. Required off-street parking is concealed behind buildings to maximize green space. The overall appearance celebrates the city’s existing vintage masonry architecture of the neighborhood.

6 Midrise East Garden

he mid-rise building steps down to four stories on its west side

Sullivan Station has met with a warm reception. All of the apartments in Phase 1’s mid-rise and low-rise buildings were rented soon after they became available. Today, Sullivan Station apartments are occupied by a mix of tenants paying a range of affordable, subsidized and market-rate rents. As the real estate market in the neighborhood grows more robust, more low-rise buildings and a condo tower will complete the 269-unit development.

Sullivan Station (Phase One), Chicago, IL
Mid-rise 140,550 SF
Low-rise 193,000 SF
Team: William Ketcham, Steve Siegle, Gayle Soberg, Eric Stanley, Al Migon and Ben Buehrle

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