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Bush Temple’s ground floor lobby encourages residents and members of the public to mix and linger.
Image courtesy of Flats LLC

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River North’s historic Bush Temple of Music begins new chapter as apartments

The rehabbed turn-of-the-century piano factory aims to deliver authenticity at an “approachable” price point

One of Chicago’s last surviving French Chateau-esque buildings, the landmarked Bush Temple of Music is ready to begin a new chapter as boutique apartments. Originally built in 1901 by architect J.E.O. Pridmore as a showroom for the Bush and Gerts Piano Company, the structure at 800 N. Clark Street was later converted into office space. For the last several decades, the historic building sat mostly vacant and needed a lot of work.


Enter Chicago-based Cedar Street Companies who purchased the building in 2014 for a reported $12.5 million. Utilizing local Adopt-a-Landmark financing along with the currently threatened federal Historic Tax Credit program, the developer brought on Hartshorne Plunkard Architecture (HPA) to oversee the Bush Temple’s restoration and adaptive reuse.

Work began in 2015 to restore the Bush Temple’s exterior terra cotta, ornamental urns, and other details and was soon followed by an extensive makeover of the structure’s interior spaces. After months of construction, the historic River North property is ready to welcome not only new residents, but members of the greater community.

Image courtesy of FLATS LLC
Image courtesy of Flats LLC
Image courtesy of Flats LLC
Image courtesy of Flats LLC

Similar to previous projects from Cedar Street’s FLATS brand of apartments, the reborn Bush Temple makes a concerted effort to activate its ground floor space as a place to meet and mingle. Entering the residential lobby involves walking through a Foxtrot pop-up coffee shop—soon to be joined by a Foxtrot market.

Formerly an auditorium space, the redesigned lobby and elevator bank sport original marble walls, trim pieces, and a terrazzo floor. The richly decorated space features dark wood, blue- and brass-colored accents, antique stools, and several pianos including an old Bush and Gerts model. The area is perhaps more akin to a hotel lobby than a residential development and includes spaces to lounge, work, and tickle the ivories.

Forgoing the elevators, a restored metal staircase leads past a framed original blueprint of the building (discovered during the renovation) and up to the residential levels. Lined with patterned Floralite glass, the broad hallways give off a decidedly vintage office vibe. The once-translucent panels now conceal solid, up-to-code walls and doors to provide privacy for renters.

Image courtesy of Flats LLC
Image courtesy of Flats LLC
Image courtesy of Flats LLC

Bush Temple’s 101 studio and one-bedroom apartments are on the smaller side, but also priced more affordably than the other new buildings to come online in River North with rents starting at $1,400 per month. Offered in a seemingly endless variety of layouts, the efficiently-arranged units combine “layers of authenticity” such as bay windows and original trim with modern conveniences such as Smeg appliances, keyless fob entry, new HVAC units, and in-unit laundry.

While all the apartments are generous when it comes to headroom, the sixth floor units offer double-height ceilings that follow the castle-like pitch of the French Revival roofline. The upper floor also leads to Bush Temple’s outdoor deck with views of downtown Chicago. Other resident amenities include a bike room and a 5,000-square-foot gym and boxing club with exposed brickwork.

“The historical character of the building provides a level of authenticity that is unique in this marketplace,” explained Mark Heffron, managing partner of Cedar Street. “We were able create an amenity rich environment with the ancillary spaces that were built for antiquated uses. These end up being extensions of the living spaces.”

Image courtesy of Flats LLC
Image courtesy of Flats LLC
Image courtesy of Flats LLC
Image courtesy of Flats LLC

Cedar Street, however, isn’t quite done with the historic River North property. A second phase of the Bush Temple redevelopment calls for a new 15-story, 129-unit addition to the immediate north. Also designed by HPA, the modern-looking annex will connect through the existing lobby and will create a new-meets-old juxtaposition of architecture. Phase two is expected to break ground in the spring or summer of 2018.

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