Chicago Tribune

The soon-to-open 3 Squares Diner at The Lawrence House (1020 W. Lawrence Ave.) ©CEDARst Companies

Jam restaurant owners plan diner in Uptown’s Lawrence House

The owners of Logan Square restaurant Jam will open a diner in Uptown’s Lawrence House, one of the final steps in transforming the 1920s building into modern apartments and retail..

The restaurant group has leased almost 2,000 square feet on the ground floor of the 13-story art deco building, where it plans to open 3 Squares Diner, chef-owner Ian Voakes said.

Cedar Street Cos., one of the busiest real estate developers in Uptown and nearby neighborhoods in recent years, redeveloped the former single room occupancy building at 1020 W. Lawrence Ave. into a 344-unit apartment building that’s operated as part of its Flats brand. Cedar Street bought the historic building in 2014, and after major renovations, the 13-story building opened to its first residents in June 2016.

The Uptown diner, which will have entrances from Lawrence and the building’s lobby, is expected to open in the first quarter of 2018, said Mark Heffron, a managing partner at Cedar Street.

The North Side neighborhood has long been known for international foods, including nearby Argyle Street’s Vietnamese restaurants, but lately has been attracting other concepts such as Jared Leonard’s planned Beacon St. Market food hall on Wilson Avenue.

“Uptown has a lot of hidden gems,” Voakes said. “When we moved to Logan Square, the neighborhood didn’t have a whole lot other than Lula Cafe. Now it’s blossomed, and there are amazing bars and restaurants. We see similar inclinations in Uptown.

“There’s a great entertainment district, it’s on the Red Line and it’s close to the lake. We feel like we can help grow the neighborhood and keep it moving.”

The building has a boxing ring and gym, indoor pool, roof deck and backyard outdoor space. Ground-floor retail also includes Larry’s bar in the lobby and a Heritage Outpost coffee and bike shop.

“Hospitality is an important layer for the building,” Heffron said. “Adding a diner providing three meals a day kind of completes that vision for us.”

Voakes said 3 Squares Diner will occupy a space that originally was a diner when the building opened as a hotel in the 1920s. Some original elements, such as the tile, will remain, he said. It will serve breakfast, lunch, dinner and late-night food to capture crowds from the nearby Aragon Ballroom, Green Mill Jazz Club and other Uptown entertainment venues. Ingredients will be sourced from farms in Illinois, Michigan and Wisconsin, meaning the menu will change seasonally, he said.

“There will be a lot of counter seating, in a throwback to the days when you’d sit down and a guy in a paper hat would take your order,” Voakes said. “We’ll be keeping it casual and serving classic dishes, but tweaking them slightly. It will be comfort food, but updated.”

Owners of the Uptown restaurant also will include the Anthony Fiore-led group of investors that owns Jam, Voakes said. The new diner will be just the second restaurant for the group. Voakes also will remain executive chef at Jam, which has been in Logan Square for five years.

Cedar Street has been one of the busiest real estate developers in Uptown and nearby neighborhoods in recent years. It has about 2,000 apartment units operating or under construction on the North Side and downtown, Heffron said. Other projects include the recent conversion of the Bush Temple of Music building on the Near North Side into apartments, with a second phase of new construction expected to kick off next door by mid-2018, Heffron said.

The firm is set to begin work in December converting the floors above Miller’s Pub on Adams Street in the Loop into apartments. Sometime next year, Cedar Street expects to begin converting a former Salvation Army building on the Near West Side into apartments.

Chicago Tribune—Ryan Ori