Two co-located library and senior housing developments that Evergreen Real Estate Group completed last year have won the 2020 Library Building Awards from the American Institute of Architects and American Library Association. Built in partnership with the city of Chicago, Chicago Housing Authority and Chicago Public Library, the projects were two of four winners recognized in the U.S. and Canada.
“It is a true honor to receive these awards, and it’s particularly special for both of our co-located library/housing projects to earn this prestigious distinction,” said David Block, director of development for Evergreen Real Estate Group. “We are extremely proud of our collaboration with the city of Chicago, CHA and CPL on these pioneering projects, which we hope can serve as a model for other cities across the country. By co-locating affordable senior housing with new public library branches, the developments stand as an example of how multiple neighborhood needs can be addressed through a single, architecturally significant project.”
Independence Branch Library and Apartments is a six-story, mixed-use development at 4024 N. Elston Avenue in Chicago’s Irving Park neighborhood that features 44 units of affordable rental housing for seniors. The project was designed by John Ronan Architects.
Ronan’s design places the library on the lower two levels of the building, with a facade consisting of gray concrete panels and expanses of glass that allow for abundant natural light. The residential portion of the building, which is set back from the library, features a white corrugated aluminum exterior, accented by recessed balconies in an array of colors. The library houses numerous flex spaces that can accommodate meetings or independent study, while a graduated seating staircase seamlessly connects the first and second floors. Residents of the apartments also enjoy their own private fitness room and outdoor terrace.
Designed by Perkins and Will, Northtown Branch Library and Apartments is a four-story, 44-unit affordable senior housing community at 6800 N. Western Ave. in Chicago’s West Ridge neighborhood.
Like the Independence development, the Northtown project houses a library on the first two floors, with residences located above. The exterior features floor-to-ceiling glass on the lower library levels, while the upper floors—whose curved design creates outdoor roof decks facing the adjacent park and residential neighborhood—are clad in insulated metal panels with bright green accents. The building is anchored by dynamic public spaces on each end. The south end includes a double-height lobby and community room with a mural by local artist Chris Silva, while the north end offers a YOUmedia lab, an innovative, tech-centric studio space designed specifically for teens. In addition to the library, seniors who live in the community enjoy access to shared amenities including the rooftop decks, a fitness room, two lounge areas and on-site laundry rooms.
“Together, the projects provide critical social and educational opportunities for area residents, as well as much-needed housing for low-income seniors whose quality of life is enhanced by having direct access to the lower-level library, among other community amenities,” said Tracey Scott, CEO of the Chicago Housing Authority.
The annual awards recognize projects that demonstrate design achievement, including a sense of place, purpose, ecology, environmental sustainability and history. This year’s winners were selected by a six-person jury. Jurors selected Independence Branch Library and Apartments for its use of new hybrid building technology; location in a diverse, mixed-income neighborhood; educational opportunities provided for all age groups and thoughtful mix of materials, including ground and polished precast concrete that contrasts with the development’s brightly colored balconies.
Northtown Branch Library and Apartments was selected for its design that maximizes the potential for interaction between the affordable housing residents and library patrons by creating connections rather than separations in the spaces; the developer’s commitment to energy use reduction and for the way the project serves as an agent of social change by pairing opportunities for lifelong learning with a sustainable solution to the city’s housing shortage.