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Chicago’s 1930 Art Deco ‘Lawson House’ set for major overhaul

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The former YMCA building at 30 W. Chicago Avenue is preparing for a $100 million makeover

Flickr/Eric Allix Rogers

The 23-story former YMCA building at the northeast corner of Dearborn Street and Chicago Avenue is gearing up for the largest renovation in the Art Deco structure’s 87 year history. Known as the Lawson House, the Perkins, Chatten & Hammond-designed tower is looking to renovate its 583 single-room-occupancy (SRO) units into 400 larger, affordable-rate apartments with private in-unit bathrooms and kitchens.

This week, property owner Peter Holsten filed a zoning application for the project with the City of Chicago. The developer had acquired the property in 2013 after the ‘Y’ vacated the Depression Era building for a new home. Holsten payed $1 for 30. W. Chicago but agreed to the condition that it must remain affordable housing for at least 50 years, reported Crain’s in 2015.

The estimated $100 million plan calls for the dwelling units to grow from approximately 250 square feet to 400 square feet in size. The work will also replace the exterior fire escapes with two enclosed stair towers as well as a new bank of fully modernized elevators. Lobby and streetscape enhancements are also planned while existing office and commercial spaces within the building are expected to remain.