City loan facilitates Lawson House renovation

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A $ 122 million project to upgrade apartments for low-income tenants at the former Lawson House YMCA, 30 W. Chicago Ave., garnered crucial aldermen support on Tuesday.

The City Council’s Housing and Real Estate Committee has approved a city loan of up to $ 17.59 million to support the fundamental renovation of the Art Deco building. Its 583 units had made it the largest site in the city for single-occupancy apartments.

Holsten Real Estate Development’s project will reduce that number to 406 units while bringing them up to today’s standards, which require kitchens and private bathrooms in each apartment. Building mechanics will be replaced and all units will be air conditioned, housing ministry officials said.

The loan from the city’s multi-family program funds will be interest-free and will join funding from many sources, including a $ 79.38 million bridge loan from the Chase Bank and a $ 17.2 million loan from the Illinois Housing Development Authority. Other funds come from the syndication of social housing tax credits and approximately $ 12.4 million in historic preservation tax credits.

The ordinance authorizing the town loan was sponsored by Mayor Lori Lightfoot. Committee members adopted it unanimously. The President, Ald. Harry Osterman (48e) said it would be presented to the full council on September 14.

The work of developer Peter Holsten has been planned for years. The YMCA of the Chicago Metropolis sold him Lawson House in 2014 for $ 1 with the agreement that he would continue to provide housing for low-income people.

The building’s entrance will be moved from Chicago Avenue to Dearborn Street, according to city documents, and its historic gymnasium will become a fitness center.

City officials said construction is expected to take around 30 months. The current tenants would be placed in suitable housing and would be favored when the building was ready to be reoccupied.

Holsten could not be reached for comment. His previous work as one of the city’s leading affordable housing developers includes mixed-income housing on the former Cabrini-Green property.

Lawson House dates from 1931, city officials said, and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. It was built thanks to a gift to the YMCA from Victor Lawson, editor of the Chicago Daily News, and opened as a full-service hotel, with social services that helped people through the Great Depression. He moved to housing after WWII.


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