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Residential conversion for Chicago’s former American Indian Center moves forward

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The structure served as a community center for Chicago’s Native American population for 50 years

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Chicago’s former American Indian Center in the Uptown/East Ravenswood neighborhood is about to begin its transformation into an apartment complex. Originally designed in 1926 by the architectural firm of Allen Webster as a Masonic temple, the four-story structure served as an urban community center for Chicago’s Native American population from 1966 to 2016.

Shifting local demographics, escalating repair costs, and a lack of reliable heat prompted the organization to sell its longtime building at the corner of Paulina and Wilson and relocate to a new facility three miles away in Albany Park. The move was described by the Chicago Tribune as an “end of an era” for the North Side community as well as the Windy City’s greater Native community.

A renovation permit to convert the nearly 38,000-square-foot structure into 24 residential units with 18 below grade parking spots was issued last week to developer Saxony Wilson LLC. Overseen by Bugaj Architects, the adaptive reuse project will see the addition of a new roof as well as improvements to the building’s inadequate heating and cooling system.

According to records, the project’s zoning change from RS-3 Residential Single-Unit to an RM-6 Residential Multi-Unit designation was approved by the Chicago City Council this spring. An earlier 2016 plan for the property had initially called for a unit count of 32 apartments, reported DNAinfo at the time.