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Jeanne Gang Explains Why She Changed The Solstice On The Park Design

By Sam Cholke | September 13, 2016 5:15am
 Jeanne Gang on Monday explained how she changed the design of Solstice on the Park to improve energy efficiency.
Jeanne Gang on Monday explained how she changed the design of Solstice on the Park to improve energy efficiency.
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DNAinfo/Sam Cholke, Rendering Courtesy of the Silliman Group

HYDE PARK — Construction on the Jeanne Gang-designed Solstice on the Park is set to begin in the fall, and Gang on Monday explained why she made changes to the 26-story building that’s been in the planning stages since 2007.

Peter Cassel, director of community development for the Silliman Group, said Monday that construction on the Gang-designed building will begin in the early fall, likely in October.

“We expect people to be able to live in the building in 2018,” Cassel said.

The building at 1634 E. 56th St. has undergone some design changes since it was first conceived in 2007 and then put on hold during the economic recession, including changing the plans from 142 condos to 250 rental apartments.

Gang on Monday explained some of the changes made to the building when it was revived in February of 2015.

Solstice was always billed as a building with an attention to energy efficiency, and its distinctive sloping windows were to control how the sun heated the building as much as for aesthetics.

Gang said those efficiencies have been improved more, partially by adding a cladding — another layer — to the concrete façade to add insulation.

“We’re finishing up our construction drawings now,” she said. The redesign has also removed the original plans for a retail space on the ground floor.

Though the developer was considering a 160-room boutique hotel for the building last year, Gang said the idea never made it into the designs and said her firm was charged with creating an interior with smaller, more affordable apartments that could be converted into another use like condos if desired later.

Cassel said rental prices have not yet been set and the rental market when the project is approaching completion will dictate what units are renting for.

He said the hotel plans were also affected by changes in the market as the project was restarting.

“The best opportunity for a building on that site is 250 apartments,” Cassel said. “On the central factors was the expression that there were to going to be many other hotel offerings in the neighborhood.”

A 90-room hotel is currently planned for 53rd Street, and the University of Chicago is considering developing a hotel on the southern edge of campus in the coming years.

The site is currently a parking garage and the developer is expected to meet with neighbors privately this week to talk about a plan to manage parking during construction. 

Solstice in the Park will likely be the fifth and last Gang-designed building in Hyde Park for the foreseeable future.

On Monday, Gang opened her other major project in the neighborhood, the University of Chicago's new residence hall.

She also designed the Silliman Group's City Hyde Park project and remodels for the Del Prado and Shoreland apartment buildings.

Gang said she doesn't have any other major projects in the pipeline for Hyde Park, not that she's not interested. 

She said she made a pitch to design Barack Obama's presidential library.