Fred Lev hired Kurzman Architecture to refresh the exterior of his rental property in the Magnificent Mile Association shopping district to better serve his perspective rental clientele. This is a story of small design moves that create large effects. The 1920’s walk-up building had much of its original residential feel where the goal was to made the basement and ground floor have an unmistakable commercial feel while maintaining the charm of the boutique rental space. Through review of the existing stair configuration that angled out to follow the residential type bay element of the building, it was determined that the stair could be reconfigured to allow for new wide showroom windows at the basement and first floor level while still allowing ample stair width going up and down to serve the basement and main building entry.
Taking cues from similar retail shops on Madison Avenue in New York, Architect Randall Kurzman worked closely with Fred Lev and his associate Justin Berzon in developing a facade with new caste stone arched showroom window, extra showroom window exposure at the stair side and a new granite stair case featuring brass handrails with ornamental ironwork. The risers of the new stair were inspired by the Rookery Building on LaSalle street where perforated diamond patterned metal allows light into the lower level basement exterior landing for a more inviting feel. The entry doors were also adorned with decorative ironwork and the interior vestibule was deepened by a critical but minimal 18″ with a wrapping of the bottom step around the new corner with new chandelier, marble medallion floor tile and new glass door and window configuration into the first floor tenant space. The outdated main electrical service for the building was relocated from the front of the space to the rear of the building to open up the basement exposure for a more rentable space further improved by expanding the width of the space at the middle by taking an interior recessed bay out to the property line as yet another small design move with a big impact.
During construction, it was found that the original bay of the front facade was not built to original permit drawings and could not be saved at the upper floors as originally intended through a shoring procedure. Kurzman Architecture along with structural engineers C.E. Anderson developed an architectural structural solutions to replicate the original bay’s essential character while improving its construction and bringing the insulation values to current 2012 energy codes including insulated walls, double-paned thermal glass with low-e coatings. This was processed as a second permit during construction under the City of Chicago’s self-certification program with structural peer review as a way to expedite the process.
Besides bringing the buildings’s electrical system up to current standards with new service to each tenant space, code-compliant interior handrails and corrections to fire separations at exterior walls and interior exit stairs were made including new exterior masonry wall at the buildings’ recessed mid-bay area and changing out non-rated stair enclosing glass with fire-rated glass. Kurzman Architecture worked closely with the the City of Chicago’s Fire Prevention Bureau and the head of the Building Department in verifying current safety requirements where alternatives were explored including review of historic code records in reviewing possible considerations for grandfathering existing conditions. In the end, all was brought up to current code standards to provide a building that meets the safety goals of the project as well as the aesthetic and space goals for a commercial rentability measuring up to the upscaling of this important shoppint street. The building now is befitting the rejuvenation that is taking place on Walton Street in response to the new developments that have taken place on Oak and Rush streets, where Walton completes an important horse-shoe passage from, and back to, Michigan Avenue, which counts itself among the top shopping streets in the world.