An entrance of marble, decorative plaster column capitals and low-VOC paints add a new chapter in green design to a Chicago landmark.
Photos courtesy of IDEA
|The historic building that once housed the first Goldblatt’s Department Store in Chicago, Ill., has been converted into a public library in a project that earned LEED Gold certification.|
The Chicago-based architecture firm Interactive Design Eight Architects Inc. (IDEA) directed the program to transform the historic Goldblatt’s building into a public library. The project recently earned LEED Gold certification from the U.S. Green Building Council.
Constructed between 1921 and 1928, the original building was designed by architect Alfred S. Alschuler. It housed the first-ever Goldblatt’s Department Store, founded by Maurice and Nathan Goldblatt, according to the City of Chicago’s official website.
The three-story brick building and five-story terra-cotta addition were designed in the “late-Chicago School commercial style.” Other works by Alschuler included K.A.M. Isaiah Israel Temple and the London Guarantee Building, both in Chicago.
In the store’s heyday, it offered inexpensive clothing, appliances and housewares from manufacturers’ overstock and other retailers’ mistakes, according to a report on the store in the Chicago Tribune. The store catered to Chicago’s immigrant residents, and the chain expanded to nearly 50 stores in the Midwest by the early 1980s.
The expansion trend came to an end in the 1990s, however, and the building that housed the first Goldblatt’s sat vacant and was slated for demolition in the latter part of the decade.
Local neighborhood preservationists and Chicago Mayor Richard M. Daley let it be known the building and its history meant something to the community, and it was spared. The city purchased the property with reported hopes of converting it into a library.
|Colorful rubber flooring was installed throughout the space.|
In 1998, the city renovated the building into a commercial office building. The renovation maintained the architectural integrity of the facility and repaired many features of the building’s façade, such as the original white terra cotta cladding, the “Chicago windows” and the water tower, according to the Public Building Commission of Chicago.
As the Goldblatt’s office building, it played a “key role” in the economic revitalization of the community as hundreds of city employees occupied the building, the Public Building Commission said.
Eventually, the building was designated a Chicago Landmark on April 1, 1998.
The office renovation project was led by architects Holabird & Root, engineers Environmental Systems Design and general contractor The George Solitt Construction Company.
In 2010, the city’s Department of General Services revisited the idea of converting the first floor into a public library.
The city wanted to combine two smaller storefront branches into a large West Town Branch and enlisted the Chicago-based IDEA to lead the conversion. The general contractor for the project was F.H. Paschen/ S.N. Nielson (Chicago) and the structural engineer was Klein & Hoffman (Chicago).
The West Town Branch Library was designed to “create an environment that was harmonious with the original structure,” said Jeff Parfitt, IDEA project architect. “The library is located on the first floor of the former department store, so we wanted to utilize some of the historic features of the original building while making it engaging for the users.”
|Low-VOC paints in gold, green and off-white were used in the library.|
The city had created prototypes for stand-alone libraries to replace the traditional storefront styles of the past, Parfitt said. The design team actually used one of the stand-alone programs to fit within the 12,000 square-foot space, he said.
The city also wanted to incorporate many green design features and charged the design team with ensuring the conversion would qualify for LEED Silver certification. Designers Parfitt and Paul Steinbrecher, however, found that as the project went forward they were able to exceed that goal and achieve LEED Gold status for commercial interiors (LEED-CI).
“We tried to incorporate and reuse many of the features throughout,” Parfitt said.
During the rehab phase, the team uncovered marble floor tiles that were original to the store. “The marble was a nice gray with a pink vein throughout,” Parfitt recalled.
The team utilized the marble in the entrance only, as marble flooring—from an acoustical standpoint—presented an issue for a library space. The rest of the flooring was a “quieter” recycled rubberized system, ECOsurfaces Commercial Flooring’s ECOearth, manufactured by ECORE International Inc., of Lancaster, Pa.
The organic color options selected for the rubber floor included “Blue Danube,” “Hot Tamale” and “Pumpkin Patch,” according to the project documents.
In addition, the team added a new and more efficient HVAC system under the flooring because they found the existing system was “never quite adequate for the space,” Parfitt added.
Parfitt said another historical element the team wanted to retain was the decorative plaster column capitals. The construction team restored the existing elements and recreated others to match.
The plaster detailing was “not very ornate” and thus did not require a specialist, Parfitt said.
As for other green features, Parfitt noted that the lighting systems were upgraded and water-efficient plumbing fixtures and windows to harvest daylight were installed.
The interior walls, columns, and ceilings were painted using The Sherwin-Williams Company’s PROMAR® 200 low-VOC Interior Latex Eggshell Enamel, Parfitt said. The interior paint color scheme consisted of gold, off white and green.
“We used some of the greens from the library’s logo,” he added.
The mission to give the library a distinct character within a historic façade worked well, Parfitt said. In order to make the library recognizable and inviting from the street, the team designed for a seating and reading area inside the large front windows and utilized lighting in an “attractive” way, he said.
“This is a great boost for the neighborhood,” Parfitt said. “It increases the quality of library services and we were able to create sustainable design expression that utilized the existing building.”
The West Town Branch Library is located at 1625 W. Chicago Ave.