LINCOLN PARK — A 114-year-old former Chicago Public School building that a developer is converting to apartments is on its way to receiving landmark status.
The city's Landmark Commission voted to approve landmark status Monday for the former James Mulligan School, which was built between 1889 and 1890 at 1855 N. Sheffield Ave.
The developer of the site, Svigos LLC, is working to restore the exterior of the building to its original state, including all of the original brick and detailed styling.
The developer is also seeking federal historic tax credits through the Illinois Historic Preservation Agency, which will involve preserving the interior of the building.
Svigos plans to turn the school's original 24 classrooms into 24 market-rate apartment units.
Most of the classrooms will be converted to two-bedroom units, and there will be a few three-bedroom units, according to Nick Vittore, Svigos' vice president.
Each original classroom was 27 feet by 34 feet with 14-foot-high ceilings.
Svigos is converting the gymnasium into the largest three-bedroom apartment, which will have a mezzanine.
The developer hopes to have the renovation complete and have residents in the building by the end of the year, Vittore said.
The Chicago Board of Education bought the site for $8,579 in 1888 and spent a little less than $67,000 constructing the four-story school, according to a Commission on Chicago Landmarks report.
Svigos bought the building in June 2013 for $4 million.
The school accommodated 918 students on its first day in September 1890, according to the report.
Mulligan closed in 1991, and reopened at Arts of Living Alternative School before closing for good in 2003.
The building is a great example of "the historical importance of school buildings in the history of Chicago neighborhoods," said Eleanor Gorski, the director of historic preservation for the city.
"The fact that this building remains intact from this period with very many of its historic details, it conveys the sense of that history of the growth of the city and public schools," Gorski said.
The landmark status has the support of Ald. Michele Smith (43rd), who said the building "has really been transformed into a jewel."
The developer has been working on the building since the fall, restoring the exterior to its original state and gutting the interior of the school.
The plan is to retain the original look and style of the interior by going through the building piece by piece, Vittore said.
The city landmark status means the cost of permit fees is waived, but the Illinois Historic Preservation Agency's federal tax credits could mean much more substantial savings after the costly reconstruction.
Vittore said his crew is going through the building and painstakingly taking out each individual piece of wood, from door jams to frames.
In the Illinois Historic Preservation Agency's "ideal world is we would save every piece of wood in there and recondition the wood," Vittore said. "It's unbelievable the amount of wood in there."
Vittore said his team has been working with the preservation agency throughout the process.
"Right now it's just a lot of work and not a lot of results yet," he said. "It will start to come together pretty quickly."