University selects award-winning preservation architect for historic building renovation

Ann Beha Architects, a Boston firm that is a national leader in the preservation and adaptive reuse of landmark buildings, has been selected to work on renovation of 5757 S. University Avenue, which was formerly owned by the Chicago Theological Seminary.

The University purchased the Chicago Theological Seminary’s main building (5757 S. University Ave.) and McGiffert Hall (5751 S. Woodlawn Ave.) in 2008 because of the buildings’ location at the heart of the central campus and to establish a new use that will revitalize the historic architecture for decades to come. The Chicago Theological Seminary will move into a new building, currently under construction. The renovation project is scheduled to be completed in the fall of 2013.

The architects at ABA have been charged with conducting a programming study to determine the academic needs of the Department of Economics and the Milton Friedman Institute for Research in Economics, and to assess whether the building can fully meet those needs. The University will respect the historical significance of the main Seminary building as it works with the ABA team on exterior renovations. Plans for renovating the interior, including Hilton Chapel, will be part of the overall architectural assessment.

ABA recently has completed projects at Princeton University, the University of Pennsylvania, and Wellesley College, in addition to landmark adaptive reuse projects for the Massachusetts Historical Society and the Mary Baker Eddy Christian Science Library. The firm’s projects focus on balancing the historic heritage of buildings with their future use, using design to help build a sense of community, according to Philip Chen, project manager for ABA.

Established in 1980, the firm has received awards from the American Institute of Architects; the National Trust for Historic Preservation, the Chicago Athenaeum; the Victorian Society in America; the Massachusetts Historical Commission; and other national preservation and design organizations.

“ABA’s emphasis will be to use the existing iconic architectural character as a point of departure in creating an academic home of distinction,” said Steve Wiesenthal, Associate Vice President for Facilities Services and University Architect.

Environmental sustainability will be incorporated into the reuse of the CTS building. Constructed in 1928, the original Theological Seminary includes chapels, a library, offices, classrooms, and gathering spaces. It also contains gardens and a cloister on a full city block, adjacent to the University’s original academic quadrangles.

A top priority for the project is ensuring that the Seminary Co-op Bookstore remains a vital asset to the campus and the community. The University is working actively with the bookstore management and board to ensure that the bookstore retains its important role in a central location.

Selection of the architectural firm was based on work by a selection committee that consisted of University faculty, trustees and administrators. The following individuals served on the architect selection committee:

Blair Archambeau, Associate Provost for Planning
David Greene, Vice President for Strategic Initiatives
John Mark Hansen, Charles L. Hutchinson Distinguished Service Professor, Department of Political Science and Dean, Social Sciences Division
Lars Hansen, Homer J. Livingston Distinguished Service Professor Department of Economics and Director, Milton Friedman Institute for Research in Economics
Richard Leftwich, Fuji Bank and Heller Professor of Accounting and Finance and Deputy Dean for Faculty, Chicago Booth School of Business
Michael Polsky, University Trustee
George Ranney, University Trustee
Michael Schill, Dean of the Law School
Harald Uhlig, Professor and Chairman, Department of Economics
Steve Wiesenthal, Associate Vice President and University Architect