FitzGerald Legacy: FitzGerald’s Loft Conversion Portfolio

Throughout FitzGerald’s history—in particular during the 1990’s and 2000’s—the firm’s planners and architects have helped owners and developers reclaim, restore, rehabilitate, and adapt aging structures throughout Chicago. While some buildings simply outlast their use and viability, many other buildings in Chicago’s historically industrial neighborhoods, such as the West Loop and River North, were left vacant or underutilized as manufacturers and distributors moved to newer facilities here and abroad.
FitzGerald has worked on a range of building types and has converted buildings of varied original purposes into several different new uses. What follows is a discussion of just a few of the conditions, uses, and challenges that FitzGerald has encountered.
Originally called the Trustees System Service Building, the 28-story Century Tower of Progress building at Lake and Wells Streets in Chicago’s Loop was the last high-rise completed before the start of the 1933 Century of Progress World’s Fair and is a highly-regarded Art Deco building once home to the Trustee System bank as well as nine international consulates. It was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1998, and in 2003 it was renovated and transformed from a defunct office building into luxury residential apartments. The building’s distinctive features include a steel frame with clay tile arch flooring system, ornate decoration at the building entrance, and fifteen different colors of brick used on the façade. Each of these elements was taken into account during the renovation, and provides significant character to the restored property.
The Sexton Lofts and Townhomes, occupying a full block in Chicago’s River North neighborhood, is one of the largest residential loft conversions completed in the city. The original building, a five-story heavy timber and concrete warehouse built for the Sexton Foods Company, occupied most of the current site. The building was deemed no longer suitable for a manufacturing or warehouse use due to its large floor plates and multi-story configuration, but its heavy timber construction, large windows and high ceilings made it ideal for a residential adaptive re-birth. The building’s original construction could support additional floors, and a five-story addition was designed atop the east end of the building to take advantage of abundant downtown views. A one-story addition was placed on the rest of the building with setbacks on all sides to create private outdoor terraces for the penthouse units. Remaining land on the north and west sides of the site provided opportunity for new construction, and a townhouse scheme was selected that placed 17 three-story townhomes on Grand Avenue and Kingsbury Street positioned over a one-story underground parking deck. Space between the new and old structures yielded a private landscaped courtyard.
The Silversmith Hotel, at 10 South Wabash Avenue on the eastern edge of the historic Chicago Loop, resides in a building designed by Peter J. Weber of Burnham and Root in 1896. As a center for silver merchants who manufactured jewelry and decorative arts in the early part of the 1900s, it is now listed on the National Register of Historic Places and is one of the few surviving works by Burnham’s firm reflecting the influence of the English Arts & Crafts movement. FitzGerald provided a plan to preserve and adapt the building—with its distinctive steel and clay tile arch floor construction—into a 143-room boutique hotel with lobby and meeting rooms. The original interiors had been removed, so new interior spaces were designed in the Arts and Crafts style, with dark oak trim and wood work, period reproduction wall coverings and light fixtures, and Stickley-inspired furniture and cabinetry to reintroduce some of the traditional elements into the building. Windows were replaced and a new sound attenuating sash installed to control noise from the adjacent elevated rail tracks. Great care was taken to repair the building’s terra cotta and tile façade, and missing pieces were replaced with castings from new molds.