Historic Former Lawson YMCA Finally Gets a Rehab Plan

One of the Gold Coasts oldest, and most loved, Art Deco skyscrapers is going to get a little love, without diverting from its mission.

Paperwork has been filed with the city to renovate the building now known as Lawson House.  For decades its stood alone as a landmark in the neighborhood skyline, and its neon YMCA sign perched on the roof guided many a resident through the night.

The Lawson House, back when it still sported its neon YMCA crown.

The Lawson House, back when it still sported its neon YMCA crown.

The Y moved its headquarters from Lawson to the Near West Side in 2013. Since then there have been several discussions of renovation plans, amid neighborhood worries that the building would be too old, decrepit, or expensive to be saved.

Now developer Peter Holstein’s vision for saving the building is coming to fruition.  He’s going to convert it from YMCA-style single bedroom housing into a full-blown S.R.O., something downtown Chicago needs badly and the city is now supporting.

The key to the plan is to reduce the number of residences from 583 to 400 or fewer.

A 30% reduction in apartments may sound like a financial loser, but consider that in its current configuration the homes are about 250 square feet, with communal facilities.  The renovation will add private kitchens and bathrooms to each remaining unit, increasing the size up to 400 square feet.

In addition, the former alley on the building’s north side will be landscaped and a new north entrance will be added.

Visually, there will be some changes to the outside of the building.  The old-style exposed fire escapes will be removed and replaced with two enclosed stair towers and a bank of new elevators.

A 2013 Crain’s Chicago Business article had the renovation cost at around $100 million.

  • Address: 30 West Chicago Avenue
  • Developer: Lawson Partners
  • Net site area: 16,883 square feet
  • Zoning change: DX-7 → DX-10 → PD
  • Maximum residences: 400
  • Floor Area Ratio: 13.3
  • Parking: none
  • Loading docks: none
  • Building height: 266 feet, 10⅞ inches

Location: 30 West Chicago Avenue, Gold Coast

Author: Editor

Editor founded the Chicago Architecture Blog in 2003, after a long career in journalism. He can be reached at chicagoarchitectureinfo@gmail.com.

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