Black metal and brick commercial building on a street in Chicago with a tree to the side.



Following a prolonged zoning approval process and unanimous approval by the Chicago Department of Planning, we finally received the permit for our mixed-use modern optometry office project. With the design process complete, we’re ready to start construction.

Formerly an abandoned two-story office building in Hyde Park, this adaptive reuse project retains portions of the existing structure while adding a third-story and communal roof deck with solar panels. We’re converting the first floor for an optometry office with several exam rooms and retail space, while the second and third floor accommodates a mix of one and two-bedroom apartments.


The building sits on an alley corner, and the unique site allows us to creatively increase visibility for the optometry office retail space with a glass corner where the alley meets the street. To accomplish this, we’ll cut back a portion of the building at the first floor corner and install an expansive glass storefront with operable transom windows. This provides a visually enhanced retail storefront and creates a protective opening and entryway for the apartment tenants.

Aerial view of Chicago buildings

Above, outlined in pink, you can see the building location. The wider portion of the structure remains intact, while the narrow rear section will be demolished and replaced with new material. The reorganization of the rear facade and removing the frighteningly unstable deck (pictured below) increases the office and upper apartment footprint.

Following the redesign, we’ll replace most of the buildings existing brick with a combination of black insulated aluminum panels and newer Chicago common brick.


Adaptive reuse projects are tricky, and we generally encounter challenges ranging from design to structural and zoning; this project was no exception. There was a lot of upfront zoning research and work performed for this project before we had a permit in hand.

  • First, starting with the location — the site is in the Lakefront Protection overlay zone due to its proximity to Lake Michigan. Thanks to early pioneer preservation advocates like Aaron Montgomery Ward and Daniel Burnham, the protection ordinance ensures the shoreline is protected, preserved, and open to the public. Therefore, it was required to prove that our project would not adversely impact the Lakefront.
  • Second, the site needed rezoning to allow for ground floor commercial use. Even though the site is on an apparent commercial corridor, the underlying zone was a holdover from a blanket rezoning of the neighborhood.
  • Lastly, since we maintained portions of the existing building that didn’t comply with setback requirements, we had to be granted a Zoning Variance. All of this was before we could even submit for a building permit. Suffice it to say; we shepherded the project through all the multiple channels until the permit was ultimately issued.

We’re nearly ready to begin construction – and you can check out our Instagram for updates.

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