Rosenwald Courts Apartments Renovation
Hooker DeJong, Inc., Rosenwald Courts Developers, LLC, Chicago Housing Authority
The Rosenwald Courts Garden Apartments at South Michigan Avenue and East 47th Street on the south side of Chicago is an early example of private sector investment in affordable housing. The initial goal was to provide quality affordable housing, in what was at the time a segregated community and housing market in Chicago, at a reasonable cost. Developed by Julius Rosenwald, the founder of Sears, Roebuck & Company, the development encompasses an entire block, and was completed in 1930, and its tenants are a “Who’s Who” of luminaries in the African-American community, including Quincy Jones, Nat King Cole, Duke Ellington, Jesse Owens, Gwendolyn Brooks, Joe Louis, and Ralph Metcalfe, among others. Occupied for many years, by the 1990s the project was in poor condition and was unoccupied for 15 years until renovation began in 2015.
Wolff Landscape Architecture, Inc. was selected as the landscape architect for its knowledge of Chicago’s landscape ordinance (WLA was the author in 1991), its sensitivity to historic preservation issues based on its long-standing historic landscape preservation practice, and its experience with large multi-disciplinary projects requiring close design and document coordination with the architect, civil engineer, and others. The scope of the landscape architect’s work included streetscape on the four street frontages; development of two entry courtyards on S. Michigan and S. Wabash avenues; and renovation of the large interior courtyard surrounded by the building on all sides. All of the courtyard trees dated to a 1970s renovation, so while they were not technically “historic fabric” they were mature trees with considerable value and were retained wherever possible. Equal care was taken to ensure that historic courtyard walkways were rebuilt with their original alignment, with greater width for amenity and to comply with ADA requirements.
Project design began in May 2014, construction was completed in October 2016.