Skip to main content

The Richard H. Driehaus Foundation Award for Architectural Excellence in Community Design - Third Place

Gensler for Town Hall Apartments

Eric Young Smith

Old-timers remember friends getting locked in detention cells at the Town Hall station back in the days when police routinely raided gay bars in the Lakeview neighborhood.

So it’s eye-opening that a place of degradation for the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) community has been transformed into a welcoming and affordable home for seniors – LGBT and heterosexuals alike.

Architects at Gensler faithfully restored the brick exterior of the Classical Revival-style landmark at the northwest corner of Addison and Halsted Streets. Yet they seamlessly connected a new, 79-unit affordable residential complex to the north. So the 1902 icon continues to anchor the intersection, but next door is a modern, LEED Silver, ADA-compliant residential wing. The six-story addition with elongated widows set between alternating green and blue metal panels delight the eyes of passersby.

Inside, the best of the old station – the pressed tin ceilings, mosaic tile floors, glazed masonry walls – were kept where practical. The detention cells and squad rooms, however, were cleared for sunlit conference rooms, reading and computer rooms, even a communal kitchen. The new wing, besides its mix of open-plan studios and one-bedrooms, has an outdoor terrace overlooking Halsted and well-equipped rooms for fitness, rehab, laundry, counseling and administration.

Co-developers Heartland Alliance and Center on Halsted held early sit-downs with prospective tenants for guidance on amenities and space. One goal was to stress “the glamor of the everyday,” says project architect Michael Hanley, so as not to “fall into the trap of rainbow flags and that sort of thing.”

“They took a symbol of oppression and turned it into something positive,” says resident Gary Sargent. “Where there was marginalization, now we have a home.”