On Tuesday, January 22nd, Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel was joined by officials from the City of Chicago, the Chicago Housing Authority (CHA), and the Chicago Public Library (CPL) to inaugurate the new Taylor Street Apartments and Little Italy Branch Library, one of the city’s first co-located housing and public library branches. Realized as a part of Mayor Emanuel’s vision to bring the two vital civic services under one roof, Chicago’s co-located housing and library branches are the first of their kind in the United States.
Skidmore, Owings & Merrill LLP (SOM), working in collaboration with developer Related Midwest and interior architect NIA Architects Inc., led the design of for the Taylor Street Apartments and Little Italy Branch on Chicago’s Near West Wide. The project brings vital community space to the neighborhood, while creating new mixed-income housing and library space in Chicago.
“Chicago is breaking the mold and uniting the strengths of our neighborhood libraries with great housing that is affordable and accessible,” said Mayor Emanuel. “Bringing together world-class libraries together with housing builds strong neighborhoods and provides a place for all community residents to gather, share and succeed.”
“We know how essential our libraries are to the communities of Chicago as neighborhood anchors,” said Chicago Public Library Commissioner Brian Bannon. “Thanks to Mayor Emanuel’s vision, our partnership with CHA, and the creativity of renowned designers, we’re able to provide our award-winning programs inside innovative spaces that reflect the vibrancy of the communities we serve.”
Located at the corner of West Taylor and Ada Streets, the development includes a one-story public library branch; a multi-story mixed-income residential complex with 73 apartments, including 37 CHA units, 29 affordable units, and seven market rate units; and shared community spaces at street level. Designed to create a synergy between the two distinct programs, the building serves as a new hub for the neighborhood.
“We’re excited to have collaborated with the Chicago Public Library and Chicago Housing Authority on this innovative co-located project—one of the nation’s first—on Chicago’s Near West Side. Bringing these two vital civic services together as one project created a tremendous opportunity to think about how a learning and social center could be integrated with housing to contribute holistically to the community,” said Brian Lee, Design Partner at SOM.
“As the third Chicago Public Library Branch we have designed since 2015, the Little Italy Branch draws from ideas and lessons learned in designing the Chinatown and West Loop Branches, and serves as a continuation of our community-driven approach to creating a positive impact in our neighborhoods,” added Lee.
Activating the street while reflecting the scale and texture of the neighborhood, the building is set back and staggered across the site, creating a new public space while preserving Taylor Street Farms, a community garden. Positioned prominently at the corner of the site, the Little Italy Branch Library welcomes the community inside, with soaring open spaces designed for children, teenagers, and adults located adjacent to centralized work spaces for librarians and staff.
As part of its diverse offerings, the library includes an Early Learning Play Space, designed to support parents and caregivers in developing early literacy skills in children through play; a YOUmedia space for teens to explore digital design, music and recording, technology, 3D and 2D making with the help of skilled mentors; and spaces dedicated to workforce development and technology for adult learners.
Overlooking the library and Taylor Street Farms with views of downtown Chicago, residential units feature floor-to-ceiling windows that offer bright, daylit interiors. Indoor spaces were designed with a focus on communal living, providing shared amenity spaces, and rooftop greenspace.
About Skidmore, Owings & Merrill LLP
Skidmore, Owings & Merrill LLP (SOM) is one of the leading architecture, interior design, engineering, and urban planning firms in the world. Since its founding more than 80 years ago, SOM has earned a reputation for design excellence with a portfolio that includes some of the most important architectural accomplishments of the 20th and 21st centuries, and has been a leader in the research and development of specialized technologies, new processes and innovative ideas, many of which have had a palpable and lasting impact on the design profession and the physical environment. The firm’s longstanding leadership in design and building technology has been honored with nearly 2,000 awards for quality, innovation, and management. The American Institute of Architects has recognized SOM twice with its highest honor, the Architecture Firm Award—in 1962 and again in 1996. The firm maintains offices in New York, Chicago, San Francisco, Los Angeles, Washington, D.C., London, Hong Kong, Shanghai, and Mumbai.
About Related Midwest
Related Midwest, the Chicago office of Related Companies, is the preeminent developer of mixed-use properties, affordable housing communities, and luxury condominium and rental homes across Chicago. For more than 30 years, Related Midwest has been dedicated to the highest standards of architecture, design, engineering and development. Related Midwest’s developments in Chicago include the Robert A.M. Stern Architects-designed One Bennett Park, a 70-story luxury residential tower and adjacent park by Michael Van Valkenburgh Associates; luxury condominiums and rental apartments including 500 N. Lake Shore Drive and OneEleven; Landmark West Loop, a 300-unit tower; and mixed-use and affordable housing communities including Marshall Field Garden Apartments and the historic Julia C. Lathrop Homes. Related Midwest has developed, acquired and preserved more than 6,500 affordable residences and currently has an additional 3,600 in development. Over the past 10 years, Related Midwest has awarded more than $228 million to minority- and women-owned businesses and hired nearly 500 community residents. The company has also helped 15 small businesses launch and grow by awarding them their first contracts.
About Chicago Public Library
Since 1873, Chicago Public Library (CPL) has encouraged lifelong learning by welcoming all people and offering equal access to information, entertainment and knowledge through innovative services and programs, as well as cutting-edge technology. Through its 80 locations, the Library provides free access to a rich collection of materials, both physical and digital, and presents the highest quality author discussions, exhibits and programs for children, teens and adults. CPL received the Social Innovator Award from Chicago Innovation Awards; won a National Medal for Library Services from the Institute for Museum and Library Services; was named the first ever winner of the National Summer Learning Association’s Founder’s Award in recognition of its Summer Learning Challenge; and was ranked number one in the U.S., and third in the world by an international study of major urban libraries conducted by the Heinrich Heine University Dusseldorf in Germany.
About Chicago Housing Authority
The Chicago Housing Authority (CHA) helps build vibrant communities across the city. By using housing as a platform, the agency works with a host of key stakeholders to sustain strong neighborhoods to best prepare CHA residents for the global economy on their road toward self-sufficiency. CHA also provides stable, decent, safe and affordable housing to more than 62,000 low-income families and individuals, while supporting healthy communities in neighborhoods throughout Chicago.