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Developer Turning 113-Year-Old Lincoln Park School Building into Apartments

By Paul Biasco | September 5, 2013 6:31am
 The former Mulligan Elementary School, which closed in 1991, was recently purchased by a developer and is being transformed into an apartment complex.
Mulligan Elementary School
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LINCOLN PARK — A dilapidated 113-year-old former Chicago Public School building on Sheffield Avenue was recently sold and will be transformed into an upscale apartment complex.

Svigos, LLC., the developer who purchased the former Mulligan Elementary School, plans to restore the exterior of the building to its original state while creating 24 apartments inside.

Nick Vittore, Svigos' vice president, said he was looking through the list of CPS buildings for sale, and the school at 1855 N. Sheffield Ave. stood out.

"This is obviously a very special building. It's a huge building for a very residential area like that," Svigos said. "Our expertise is vintage rehab, so when something like this came up we couldn't pass on it."

The developer will need to do a complete gut rehab on the interior of the crumbling school, according to Svigos, and intends to replace windows to their original look and style.

"The outside of the building will look exactly the same," Svigos said. "It will look like the old Mulligan school."

Svigos purchased the building for $4 million in June, and the company plans to have its first tenants arrive in the next 18 to 24 months.

The school's classrooms and hallways will be converted into mostly two-bedroom and a few three-bedroom units, while the building's gymnasium will be transformed into a "huge" three-bedroom unit with a mezzanine.

To keep with the vintage feel, the developer recently spent a month inside the century-old Barat College in Lake Forest salvaging doors, vintage lights, door handles, maple hardwood flooring and other materials ahead of the college's demolition.

"We like the challenge of it," Svigos said. "Nothing excited us more than a 100-year-old building with 14-foot ceilings."

Long-time residents of the neighborhood surrounding the school were pleased to hear the developer was sparing the school from the wrecking ball.

"That's kind of nice that they are going to keep the structure," said Clare Curley, who lives about a block from the former school. "It's a bummer when buildings get knocked down and something modern and depressing" replaces them.

Curley said the corner at Sheffield Avenue and Poe Street has a "vacant feel" to it.

"It was just a matter of time until this area picked up again," she said.

Svigos hopes to move the project along quickly, and his crews are already inside the building cleaning out debris.

The developer has been researching architects and contractors who have converted schools to residential buildings. The nearest project he's been able to find is located in Rockford, where a school was converted into condos.

Svigos is seeking a historical tax credit to help pay for the renovations.

"We can't just knock and block everything out," he said. "We have to do this is a way that maintains the spirit of the building."