Chicago Adaptive Reuse of Historic Bank Building


The Chicago renovation and adaptive reuse of a bank building into a mixed-use, modern apartment dwelling is complete.

Our clients came to us with a challenging program — design efficient residential units in an existing triangular-shaped, concrete, and timber building without adding parking. We took advantage of the TOD ordinance to eliminate the need for on-site parking and designed unique layouts for each of the 20 dwelling units with various retained and salvaged elements while modernizing the infrastructure and adding an elevator and a roof deck. The ground floor houses retail suites, including Wormhole 2 Coffee and Life on Marz Brewing Community Club, both of which we also designed.

Saving a piece of Chicago’s architectural history, the iconic Margie’s Candie’s property features a reclaimed vintage exterior, modern apartment interiors with open floor plans and communal spaces, and a spacious roof deck. Completely gutting the interior, leaving several bank vaults intact, we converted the second floor offices to twenty loft-like apartments and carved out retail spaces on the first floor.



Like any aging structure, the exterior facade and supporting steel lintels were worn and required some attention. We replaced the lintels and cleaned the existing stone to reveal the natural color and beauty of the limestone. In addition, we installed new limestone for the areas where we punctured door and window openings.

To preserve the historical integrity of the building, we removed the original Cole Taylor Bank stones and set them aside during construction. Once the exterior renovations were complete, we placed the stones back into place. For someone passing by today, they can still see the old exterior bank clock perched at the main entrance and the Cole Taylor Bank lettering – a bit of history salvaged that adds to the building’s character.


The triangular shape of the building was a source of constraint when deciding on the apartment floor plans. The lack of ninety-degree angles took some creativity and ingenuity to carve out a mix of studio, one and two-bedroom units, and the common areas.

As with all of our projects, we harness and bring in as much natural light for interior spaces. We placed the apartment units near existing windows for maximum light exposure and situated the irregular corridor space in the less desirable center space of the building. We opened and popped up a portion of the roof and installed skylights to illuminate the central corridor. Additionally, we removed the existing windows and retrofitted the openings with energy-efficient, operable awning windows that allow for better ventilation.

To maximize square footage and allow for multifunctionality and versatility, we designed open floor plans inside the apartments. Throughout the units, the attention to detail includes custom millwork, terrazzo kitchen counters, stainless steel appliances, and wall-hung toilets in the bathrooms. We installed space-saving murphy wall beds in the studio units, and to continue with the modern, industrial aesthetic, the floors are a mix of hardwood and refinished polished concrete.

A mix of exposed brick and warm wood hues gives the apartments a modern, comfortable vibe.

Below is the layout for the second floor apartments. If you’d like to check out the interior details, our client has a virtual tour tool that guides the viewer through each unit.

Second story apartment floor plans. Photo cred: Baum Revision | Upstairs at Margies
Skylights allow an abundance of natural light into the interior hang-out space and corridors. Photo cred: Baum Revision


Other than unattractive HVAC systems, the existing rooftop offered zero features and didn’t provide a safe access point. Following the city’s code requirement for occupiable rooftops, we carved out two openings and installed interior stairs. Tenants can now enjoy a large outdoor common area and take advantage of the beautiful city skyline views. Or, if you’re a two all-beef patties, special sauce, lettuce, cheese, pickles, onions on a sesame seed bun fan, you can daydream about burgers and watch the sunrise through the golden arches.


The ground floor features five retail spaces and is home to the Wormhole 2, Chicago’s premier coffee house, and the new concept from Marz brewery – Life on Marz Community Club, a nano-brewery and society clubhouse.

Our client’s inspiration for the Wormhole 2 was the ultimate 90s cult classic – Wayne’s World. We weren’t sure exactly what a Wayne’s World design might entail, but we knew we had to incorporate the iconic Mirth-Mobile. As luck would have it, we found a local Wisconsin car collector selling a beauty of an AMC Pacer – schwing! Our steel fabricators built a frame with attachments and reduced the car’s weight by removing the engine, making it more manageable to hang. Then, we suspended the sweet, sweet powder blue 1976 AMC Pacer, AKA the Mirth-Mobile, from the ceiling over the coffee bar in the center of the space. The car is definitely the space’s centerpiece and is visible from the outside to passersby from the newly installed operable overhead doors.

Occasionally, we encounter a zoning challenge which is exactly what happened while working on the Marz brewery. Due to zoning regulations, a brewery and a taproom weren’t allowed to occupy the space, so we approached it another way to secure the permit and eventual design and build-out. Instances like these are when it’s vital to work with a savvy architect who comprehends and understands the current zoning regulations. Although the city didn’t permit a brewery, it did allow occupancy for a one-barrel brewery. Alas, a nano-brewery was created, permitted, designed, and built!

From left to right: second floor apartment communal space; overhead doors inside Wormhole 2


By filing a variance and gaining approval from the Zoning Board of appeals, we reduced the parking requirement to zero, being that the building is located near the Western Blue Line ‘L’ station and met TOD criteria. Without the TOD designation, twenty parking spaces would need to be included in the design. Parking spaces consume valuable square footage that is more desirable for residential units. Freeing up that space allowed us more room for the residential units.

All photos are courtesy of the wonderful Carmen Troesser

If you’d like to see additional construction photos and learn more about the process, check out the work-in-progress post.

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