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Reimagining the Guyon Hotel: Jazz museum, cannabis farms, micro-apartments, and more

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Architects have creative ideas for the historic Garfield Park building

Photo by Gabriel X. Michael, courtesy of Preservation Chicago

A plan to preserve and repurpose West Garfield Park’s 1927 Guyon Hotel building eluded preservationists and developers since it was abandoned in the 1990s. However, a recent design competition by Chicago-based architecture firm CallisonRTKL in collaboration with non-profit group Preservation Chicago hopes to turn things around by offering creative solutions for breathing new life into the historic Moorish Revival style building.

“There were plans to redevelop the building into affordable housing but it hasn’t worked,” said Nicholas Spoor of CallisonRTKL. “For this competition, we encouraged big ideas with the hopes that a developer would see it and consider incorporating a piece or an aspect into future adaptive reuse plans.”

“We want to raise awareness and encourage clever solutions,” said Ward Miller of Preservation Chicago, an organization that named the Guyon Hotel to its annual list of most endangered buildings three times in the last six years. Of the five design submissions, some concepts are more far-fetched such as a rooftop carousel or floors of marijuana grow rooms. However, “a little fantasy and humor is okay,” according to Miller.

A vision for the Guyon that includes a jazz museum, community radio station, and music school.

The winning proposal, dubbed “Cross Rhythm,” brings a jazz museum, radio station, music school, performance and events spaces, and a neighborhood cafe to the Guyon. Recognizing that the original hotel was developed by a jazz club owner and at one time housed radio stations, the plan offers a spiritual return to the building’s roots.

Second place went to “Infusing the Past with New Purpose,” a plan to transform the building into a hub for local businesses, artists, and makers. The vision includes flexible workspaces, exterior murals, a greenhouse, a rooftop restaurant, a ground-floor market place, and a health clinic component.

“Ultimately the goal of the competition is to encourage conversations about neighborhoods, especially underserved ones,” added Spoor. “Looking beyond downtown and the North Side, there are so many Chicago buildings that need to be preserved and find new uses. As architects, it’s exciting to lead the conversation.”

With luck, the idea will catch on with developers or lawmakers and the deteriorated building will be revived. By Miller’s estimates, the reuse of the Guyon Hotel faces a $10 million shortfall, though the gap may have narrowed slightly with the availability of new funding sources and tax credits. “At the end of the day, the city needs to step up and be a partner as it was with the South Side’s Rosenwald Courts project,” Miller told Curbed Chicago.

“Cross Rhythm” puts new, stepped glass enclosures between the building’s three tower segments.
“Hotel Guyon: Infusing the Past with New Purpose” focuses on flexible spaces for local businesses, artists, and physicians.
“The Viva Team” came up with a proposal that capitalizes on Illinois’ new legalized cannabis laws to generate income.
“The Garden” calls for micro-apartments in prefab modules inserted into the existing building’s superstructure.
“Team GuyON” blends cannabis cultivation with entertainment aspects like a dance hall and rooftop carousel.