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Logan Square Community Arts Center

By Kirsten Westergren

Placemaking Principle #8: Triangulate

When Sol Goldberg, founder of the Hump Hairpin Lofts Manufacturing Co., first developed the Morris B. Sachs building on 2800 N. Milwaukee in 1930, he was confident in Logan Square’s long-term strength and potential. Unfortunately, aside from Payless Shoe Source on the first floor, the entire flatiron building – a historic landmark located on a prime six-corner intersection in  one of the neighborhood’s key commercial corridors – has been vacant and deteriorating for the last 20 years.

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In March 2010, however, the City Council approved Brinshore Development’s plans to redevelop the building’s second floor into the Logan Square Community Arts Center and the upper floors into the Hairpin Lofts, four stories of affordable apartments. Goldberg would approve: The building’s new uses align with his initial vision and are inspiring additional improvements to the corridor.

Hairpin Lofts comprises 28 rental units occupying the building's upper four floors, one- and two-bedroom units ideal for artists and renters on a budget. In fact, all but three of the units are affordable to households earning 30 to 60 percent of the area median income. The building’s redevelopment also entailed a clear focus on historic preservation and environmental sustainability. Informed by four archival photos dating back to as early as 1944, the historic renovation included restoration of the building’s limestone façade, Art Deco styling, and 1st floor historic lobby.  It is LEED-certified, has a green vegetative roof, and required a great deal of planning and innovation to incorporate other green amenities. For instance, the building has a geo-thermal heating and cooling system, which is very unusual with a rehabilitated building and required purchasing the property next door and drilling 16 geothermal wells. David Brint, CEO of Brinshore Development, said that through the development of these green measures, he hopes to both reduce environmental impacts and achieve “long-term energy utility control for the tenants.” Brinshore was able to make this space green and affordable partially because of Tax Increment Financing (TIF) dollars as well as public, private, and grant funding. The Logan Square Arts Center occupies

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the 7,000 square foot, high-ceilinged second floor and is a multipurpose space designed to serve the various needs and desires of the community. Different neighborhood groups and art organizations in the area, including the local multi-arts alliance

Voice of the City and I Am Logan Square, shaped the vision for the space and play an active role in its ongoing success. These organizations have become partners in the project, and rent the center’s space as a venue for gallery exhibitions, music, dance, and theater, a senior program, fine arts classes for kids, and more. The center hosts a constant flow of people and programs and is occupied day and night. 

Susan Yanun, New Communities Program director for the Logan Square Neighborhood Association, attended an I Am Logan Square performance, “The Americans,” about the immigrant experience, and was moved and impressed with the depth. Yanun said she hopes that the Arts Center will continue in its pursuit to be “affordable, accessible, and culturally open,” by reaching out to a broad audience through such means as "donation-only” nights for performances.

Brinshore never intended for the transformation of 2800 N. Milwaukee Avenue to take place in isolation or solely internally; and adjacent redevelopment demonstrates that it certainly has not. Rather, the Hairpin Lofts and Community Arts Center has been, according to Brint, a “trigger for economic development in the surrounding area,” which simultaneously has welcomed new restaurant developments and the renovation of an old theater. The Hairpin Lofts and Logan Square Community Arts Center is a perfect example of the Placemaking principle of Triangulation. Besides the building’s multiple uses, it also has facilitated nearby activity and growth. In fact, just glance out the arts center window to the east, and you’ll look right out onto a small stretch of street and triangular concrete that will be closed to motorists and transformed into a park and outdoor seating for a nearby restaurant in spring 2012. Brinshore and Ald. Rey Colón (35th Ward) have been working together to make this site a public gathering space and, ultimately, an external version of Hairpin’s internal transformation. These plans also have facilitated transit-oriented developments nearby, such as two spaces for I-GO shared cars in the lot. 

Kirsten Westergren

While the Hairpin Lofts and Logan Square Community Arts Center are still quite new, both the developers and surrounding neighbors have high hopes that they will continue to be a positive force in Logan Square – truly fulfilling its destiny.