Renovation of 5757 S. University Ave. enters new phase

Work is underway on the next phase of a project for the adaptive reuse of 5757 S. University Ave., which the University of Chicago is renovating for the building’s new role as a destination for economics scholars worldwide.

The extensive remodeling of the building, led by Ann Beha Architects, includes excavations to provide space for an underground classroom and mechanical equipment. In addition, an alley that used to divide the building is being moved to allow for the creation of a new main entrance on the south side of the structure. The building will be the new site of the Department of Economics and the Becker Friedman Institute for Research in Economics when it re-opens in 2014.

Construction accelerated following the relocation in November of the Seminary Co-op Bookstore to its expanded new home in McGiffert House, around the corner at 5751 S. Woodlawn Ave. The bookstore had been the last occupant of the 5757 University Ave. building, which previously housed the Chicago Theological Seminary. Tigerman McCurry Architects designed the new store for the Co-op, preserving the feelings of serendipity and immersion in books that have made the bookstore a beloved University fixture.

Respecting and preserving the historic character of the neighborhood has been an important goal of the University throughout the planning of both projects, officials said. Those objectives are continuing to guide other University construction efforts underway along Woodlawn Ave.

"The University values the residential scale and history of Woodlawn Avenue, and we felt there was an opportunity to work with the community and create a comprehensive plan for this unique Hyde Park location," said Alicia Murasaki, Executive Director, Planning and Design, Facilities Services.

The University worked with architects to preserve as much of the character of 5757 S. University Ave. as possible while making it accessible and useful for current academic purposes, Murasaki said. Conference rooms and modernized offices will be built as part of the remodeling project, while paneling and large windows, including some of the original stained glass, will evoke the building’s past, she said.

Building the new entrance on the structure’s south side will serve the added purpose of linking parts of the building that had been separated by the alley. “This will make the building truly one structure,” Murasaki said.

Several new University centers are planned for the immediate neighborhood on Woodlawn Ave. The Neubauer Family Collegium for Culture and Society, which will bring scholars from varied disciplines to work on big questions in the humanities and social sciences, will be located at 5701 S. Woodlawn Ave. Nearby, at 5707 S. Woodlawn Ave., will be the Institute of Politics, led by inaugural director David Axelrod, AB’76. The Paulson Institute, which opened in 2011 with the arrival of senior distinguished fellow Henry Paulson, will be located at 5711 S. Woodlawn Ave.

"We believe the best way to preserve the character of this neighborhood is to be good stewards of the buildings and find active uses for them,” Murasaki said.

Community members were involved in discussions on the Woodlawn Ave. revitalization project well in advance of construction, and played a key role in shaping the University’s approach, according to Ellen Sahli, Assistant Vice President for the Office of Civic Engagement. She praised Ald. Leslie Hairston for her leadership and assistance in ensuring community members were involved and engaged.

In addition to the renovation of 5757 S. University Ave., the second phase of construction on the new economics facility calls for a new economic research pavilion to be erected between University Ave. and Woodlawn Ave., in the space that the vacated alley used to occupy. The new building, which is slated to open in 2015, will be connected to the houses that are now used for Nursery School students in the Laboratory Schools.

Space in the former Nursery School houses will be used for offices, and the look of those houses will be preserved along with the rest of the buildings along Woodlawn Ave.