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After nearly $20 million facelift, Near North Side SRO unveiled as affordable housing ‘done right’

The SRO was purchased and rehabbed by a non-profit that’s currently working on a similar project in Lincoln Park

Before and after photos of a room at the newly renovated Mark Twain Hotel — an SRO in the Gold Coast that was purchased by a non-profit group that specializes in affordable housing. Rent for building’s 148 units is being subsidized by the Chicago Housing Authority.
Before and after photos of a room at the newly renovated Mark Twain Hotel — an SRO in the Gold Coast that was purchased by a non-profit group that specializes in affordable housing. Rent for building’s 148 units is being subsidized by the Chicago Housing Authority.
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A rehabbed single room occupancy building that features a new rooftop deck and kitchenettes in each unit was formally reopened Friday in the Near North Side and held up by Mayor Lori Lightfoot as an example of affordable housing done right.

“Affordability has to be the future of the city of Chicago. None of us want to live in a city where we have workers who can’t afford to live,” Lightfoot said at a ribbon cutting ceremony at the Mark Twain Hotel at Division and Clark Streets.

Each of the building’s 148 units contains a renovated bathroom and a new kitchenette. Monthly rents will be 30% of a tenant’s income — the rest will be subsidized by the Chicago Housing Authority.

The 90-year-old historic art deco building was acquired in 2016 for $23 million by the New York-based The NHP Foundation, a non-profit dedicated to creating and preserving affordable housing. The group spent another $18.5 million on construction.

The building is now accessible to people with disabilities and has a new rooftop lounge that will feature garden boxes, although rehab designs left it with four less residential units.

Other improvements to the building — one of the largest remaining SROs on the North Side — include all new plumbing, mechanical, electrical systems and restoration of the vintage facade and lobby.

“We were able to save an SRO that everyone in the neighborhood wanted to go,” said Ald. Walter Burnett (27th). “You look around you see a lot of high rises that get a lot of rent...but you still have people in the neighborhood who need a place to stay who’ve been living in this neighborhood for a long time.”

There were 93 residents in the building before construction and 50 are moving back in — the rest found other places to live or make too much money to qualify for the housing, according to Kendra Stensven, NHP Foundation vice president of development.

The remainder of the building’s units will go to people who are on a CHA wait list.

Ground floor space in the building that totals 8,500 square feet can accommodate as many as six retailers, Stensven said. Leases have not been signed yet, but Stensven hinted it’s likely the space would be rented by casual fast food businesses.

The building’s purchase and renovation was carried out under Chicago’s Single-Room Occupancy Preservation Ordinance, which incentivizes building owners to continue offering units at an affordable rate.

NHPF owns another SRO in the 2600 block of North Clark Street in Lincoln Park that it intends to rehab and offer as affordable housing. Construction has yet to begin on that project.