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The Richard H. Driehaus Foundation Award for Architectural Excellence in Community Design - First Place (Tie)

Landon Bone Baker Architects for The Carling Hotel

When in 2014 the City of Chicago created new rules for the operation of single room occupancy buildings (SROS), the Michaels Development Company – a nationwide leader in affordable housing – purchased one of the city’s best known: the Carling Hotel. 

For Michaels the first order of business was preservation and renovation – but not just any kind of rehab. Rather the charge given to Landon Bone Baker Architects was quite specific: Take a 100-year-old former single room occupancy hotel (SRO) and transform it into attractive apartments amid a posh neighborhood while keeping it affordable to very low-income individuals. 

“Our challenge was to transform a 155-room SRO into an 80-apartment building for low-income individuals while maintaining its fundamental and well-built structure and character,” says Landon Bone Baker Architects principal Jeff Bone, whose firm has worked on scores of affordable housing developments over its 40-year history. 

“The Carling was really in rough shape when we acquired it,” said Greg Olson, the regional vice president of Michaels. “It required brand new everything.” 

Maintaining corridors and windows to maximize light, Landon Bone Baker Architects added bathrooms and kitchenettes to every apartment, created congregate dining and gathering space on every floor and made 16 of the apartments handicap-accessible. 

While the apartments were totally redone, care was taken to preserve the common spaces and façade of the attractive 1927 building. The lobby and accompanying public spaces on the ground floor where the terrazzo flooring and wall detail were carefully restored now provide a warm and gracious ensemble of rooms suitable for gatherings. 

“As in many SROs that were once the hotels of the 1920s, the Carling not only had good bones but beautiful, original terrazzo floors in the entry and a façade that is both artful and blends in with the surrounding edifices of north LaSalle Street,” says Bone. Both he and Olson emphasize that maintaining beauty was important in removing the stigmatization that had hampered the Carling during its SRO years. 

“Now,” says Olson, “those who rent from the Carling are just residents of a beautiful apartment building in Old Town – maintaining the diversity of the neighborhood and just making things better for all.”