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Work underway to restore Chicago’s historic Mark Twain Hotel

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The 1930’s structure is being renovated under Chicago’s SRO Preservation Ordinance

McCaffery Interests

The Mark Twain Hotel—a neglected Art Deco single room occupancy (SRO) building in Chicago’s Gold Coast neighborhood—is finally getting a much-needed overhaul. Located above the Clark and Division Red Line stop and opposite a Jewel grocery store at the base of the 35-story Sinclair luxury apartment development, the Mark Twain property was recently issued a renovation permit estimated at $15 million.

Upgrades include a refresh of the 85-year-old building’s mechanical, electrical, and plumbing systems. The Mark Twain will remain as an SRO but see its unit count dip from 151 to 148. The renovations will add a kitchen to each unit as well as create new communal spaces for residents.

Designed by architect Harry Glube and completed in 1932, the historically significant beige brick and terra cotta building was acquired by New York-based The NHP Foundation last year for $21 million. The nonprofit developer was one of the first to take advantage of Chicago's Single-Room Occupancy Preservation Ordinance which incentivizes property owners to continue offering units at an affordable rate.

The project intends to minimize displacement of current residents as well as attract higher grade retail tenants to the Mark Twain’s ground floor. McCaffery Interests is currently leasing retail space in the overhauled SRO which it has dubbed the ‘Mark Twain Suites’ on its website.

Along with the Art Deco Lawson House YMCA building, the Mark Twain building was nominated for inclusion on the National Register of Historic Places by the Chicago Commission on Landmarks in February. The structure "exemplifies the rooming hotels that were purpose-built primarily to house the army of skilled but low paid white- and blue-collar workers flooding into the city in the early decades of the 20th century," reads its registration form.