Celebration marks next phase in adaptive reuse of 5757 S. University Ave.

Teams working on the adaptive reuse of 5757 S. University Ave. celebrated a milestone recently with the completion of work on the building’s façade, windows and roof. With “enclosure” complete, the focus now shifts to interior renovation.

When it reopens in the spring of 2014, the building will serve as the home for the Department of Economics and the Becker Friedman Institute for Research in Economics, housing faculty and student offices, and research and instruction facilities. Originally built between 1923 and 1927 to house the Chicago Theological Seminary, the building is gaining new life through an adaptive reuse project that Boston-based Ann Beha Architects undertook in 2010. Construction began in 2012.


The enclosure involved adding a new slate roof, weatherizing the building to improve energy efficiency, and meticulously cleaning and repairing its exterior bricks, said Brad Carter, senior project manager with Turner Construction. In addition, new windows with leaded glass have been installed, and a new arched entrance with surrounding glass curtain walls is being constructed. The entrance occupies the space where an alley used to intersect 58th Street; that alley was re-directed to Woodlawn Avenue.

The adaptive reuse project includes the addition of an underground classroom and mechanical equipment. The building also will be updated to be fully accessible, and to comply with modern safety codes.

Once the project is done, the team hopes to capture the building’s historical significance while ensuring its availability for future generations.

“Striking a balance between preserving the historic character of the building and modernizing the facilities has been our important goal throughout the planning process,” said Steve Wiesenthal, senior associate vice president and University architect. “We have successfully achieved that goal during the enclosure process.”   

Workers who have moved the project forward gathered inside the building on Nov. 21 to celebrate the progress and share a meal with Wiesenthal, Beha and other project leaders, who thanked them for their hard work.

The second phase of the adaptive reuse of 5757 S. University Ave. calls for the addition of a new research pavilion to the back of the building, using some of the space that the vacated alley previously occupied.  

When the first phase of construction concludes in June 2014, a stretch of 58th Street between Woodlawn and University avenues will be converted into a pedestrian space, with footpath pavers connecting it to the main Quadrangle.