Case Studies

Arc at Old Colony – Pappageorge Haymes Partners

Breathing new life into a historic Chicago landmark

The term student housing doesn’t often have glamorous connotations, but a recently opened student-oriented multifamily project in Chicago’s South Loop is turning heads. Arc at Old Colony, known to residents and those who worked on the project as “the Arc,” blends history and hard-hitting design with modern amenities, culminating in an enviable residence for students from the area’s many universities.

“The Old Colony Building is an important part of Chicago’s skyscraper legacy,” explains Ken DeMuth, AIA, project manager for Pappageorge Haymes Partners, the project architect overseeing design and coordination between partners for the design of Arc at Old Colony. “The structure has a storied history and sat in non-ideal conditions neglected for a long time. Filling a void left by relocating businesses, the universities and schools have expanded and created a huge student population in the South Loop area.”

Pappageorge Haymes Partners

With demand high for student housing and underutilized commercial real estate in the South Loop, The Old Colony Building provided the ideal opportunity to restore a historic landmark while providing comfortable, stylish housing to residents. Pappageorge Haymes Partners entered the design phase for the Arc in January 2013; construction began in late 2014 and the building was completed August 2015, just in time for students to move in for the school year.

Reverse-engineering a classic structure

In order to efficiently convert a vintage office building into student housing while retaining the building’s historic charm, DeMuth says, “We put some reverse engineering and a lot of field investigation into it.”

“Student housing is often considered more of a commodity than a design opportunity,” he elaborates. “But here, our client wanted to create a unique housing opportunity distinguished from its competition in part by historic components in the building.” This meant repurposing the existing layout — geared toward office life — and creating a fresh, energetic environment for 137 apartments and social amenity spaces.

Built in 1893, the Old Colony building originally consisted of offices arranged along day-lit central corridors demised with frosted glass walls. The narrow building footprint, tall ceilings and expansive exterior windows provided elements perfectly suited residential use. As a renovation project, the Arc received a 20 percent tax credit for the joint development team of Keith Giles and CA Ventures. The entitlement process required a Planned Development Ordinance worked out in close coordination with the City of Chicago’s Landmark Division the State of Illinois’ Historic Preservation Office. So often developers will resist landmark mandates but this project proves the opposite and there is something to be said for conservation.

The building’s old-school charm added significant value, DeMuth says, but it came with challenges as well. “There were 650 windows with glass etched by acid from the a previous owner’s attempt to clean the facade,” he explains. “They looked dirty and foggy, but we found an automotive product to buff out the windows and refurbish them including the four original curved glass oriel corners. There is also a dramatic entrance with 25-foot turned, stone columns that were covered in masonry in the ‘50s. When we stripped it away, we found the front side hade been shaved off the burlap textured columns. To remedy this, the restoration contractor, MBB Enterprises of Chicago, hand finished new slabs of stone hat were cut into the old columns. We didn’t know what it would look like, but it came out great.”

“It’s been said by others that renovation is the single greatest example of sustainability. Consider all the imbedded energy and efforts by so many. We reused the envelope of the building and the structure. We restored plaster and trim at the exterior walls and restored the original wood windows, replacing seals and weather-stripping. We provided a new Energy Star-rated heat pump HVAC system and LED lights.” – Ken DeMuth, project manager for Pappageorge Haymes Partners

Necessary upgrades went beyond just the aesthetic. In order to meet fire code, the building needed a second stair case inside. But the Arc had some surprises too: “We were initially going to install concrete topping to create a smooth floor surface. Instead we pulled back the tile and found the original wood floors and marble mosaics,” says DeMuth. Fully restored, these original floors exceed expectations.

“It’s been said by others that renovation is the single greatest example of sustainability,” notes DeMuth. “Consider all the imbedded energy and efforts by so many. We reused the envelope of the building and the structure. We restored plaster and trim at the exterior walls and restored the original wood windows, replacing seals and weather-stripping. We provided a new Energy Star-rated heat pump HVAC system and LED lights.”

Design dream team

The Arc required many talented partners for completion. The Pappageorge Haymes Partners team included David A. Haymes, AIA, Michael Poczatek, RA, Amy Beausoleil and Ryan Arnaudov, LEED AP BD+C, who handled architectural design and historic research. “Many other partners played important roles in the Arc project, including MacRostie Historic Consultants, Stearn Joglekar, Ltd. for structural engineering and design-build mechanical, electrical and plumbing led by James McHugh Construction — and a special appreciation for the significant preservation role played by of Andre Andrejevic who is no longer with us to see the results of his extensive labors,” says DeMuth.

Other team partners included BTL Architects, another Chicago-based architecture firm that specializes in façade restoration consulting, repair and revitalization, and BKV Group, the firm that provided interior design services for common areas in the building.

“We took on the interior common area finishes as well as the layout of furniture, light fixtures and artwork,” says Melissa Metzler, senior interior designer and partner at the firm.

“Our firm concentrates on multifamily, so this is certainly in our wheelhouse,” adds Metzler. “Usually when it’s student housing, a project is geared toward a youthful, millennial product. The most unusual aspect at the Arc project was the combination of old historic architecture and creating a really unique, welcoming interior for the students and residents there. It was really fun to be able to take what was there and add little punches of contemporary lifestyle amenity space.”

“We have worked in the past with the developer of Arc at Old Colony, but this is our first project with Pappageorge Haymes Partners,” she adds. “Our goal is always to create relationships where we can partner and collaborate again in the future.”

Landmark becomes home for students

In all, DeMuth is proud of the accomplishments of the entire team involved in the Arc project. While Pappageorge Haymes Partners is a frequent player in the student housing and campus acquisition market, he says this undertaking presented unique design challenges and opportunities.

“This was a prestigious commission for us,” he explains. “We went in with ambitious architectural goals in mind. With the enthusiastic support of the developers, we were able to eventually go much further.”

And that end result is a historic Chicago landmark with a broad variety of unit types woven into the historic fabric. The project reached 90 percent occupancy within a month of opening: another successful addition to the Pappageorge Haymes Partners’ portfolio.

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Spring 2018



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