Curbed Chicago

How ‘the Draper’ turned dated Uptown offices into midcentury-inspired apartments

The two-year transformation of Uptown’s former Combined Insurance building into a new striking apartment development known as the Draper is nearly complete. The adaptive reuse project at 5050 N. Broadway is the latest development from Chicago-based Cedar Street Companies and the group’s first crack at designing a midcentury modern-inspired building.

Renovation of the Draper included connecting three separate structures, cutting out a courtyard to allow additional light and green space for residents and transforming the façade with a new modern-day window wall system. There will a wide variety of unit types available when the property officially opens on October 10. Select one- and two-bedroom units feature dens, and the top floor boasts duplex apartments with balconies and skyline views. Consistent with other FLATS buildings, there are also be a number of well-programmed studios offered at approachable rents. Each unit includes its own washer/dryer, rain-shower, free Wi-Fi, and floor-to-ceiling windows, among many other unit features.

“We’re always looking at the structure that we inherit to find ways to be authentic,” Cedar Street’s Mark Heffron tells Curbed. “Some of our past projects were more Art Deco-inspired. Bush Temple was turn-of-the-century. Lawrence House took a Roaring ‘20s approach. Here, we focused on the ‘50s portion of the property since it was our first time getting our hands on a midcentury building.”
Chicago architecture firm Booth Hansen oversaw the recladding of the old 12-story office building—swapping what Heffron calls a “flat, tired curtain wall” for a fresh, more contemporary facade with a lot more depth and texture.

Stepping into the Draper—which takes its name from a not-so-subtle nod to Mad Men—it’s hard to miss the midcentury modern design of the lobby. The thematic decorating continues in the building’s seventh-floor lounge (which connects to an outdoor pool, a dog run, and grilling stations) as well as in the emerald green paint jobs and globe lighting in the residential hallways.

Cedar Street’s in-house designer Heather Fritz made creative use of a windowless corner of the building by carving out unique amenities. These include a 1950s Hollywood-inspired screening room, a multi-level gym, and a tropical tiki lounge-themed game room with palm leaf wallpaper on the ceiling.

“Mid-century modernism was a no-brainer as the source of inspiration for design,” Fritz tells Curbed. “Tiki lounges and mid-century go hand in hand. There was a sort of obsession with tropical environments in Hollywood movies of the era, and Hawaii became a state at the end of the era, forever enmeshing American and Polynesian culture.”

Unlike several previous Cedar Street projects that mainly comprised smaller micro-units, the Draper offers a broader mix of unit sizes, floorplans, and finishes. The building has more than 50 distinct unit types, according to Heffron, ranging from 400-square-foot studios to roomy high-floor apartments with 18-foot ceilings, lofted duplex layouts, and Lake Michigan views.

Additionally, there are 30,000 square feet of retail space, including a coffee shop planned next to the lobby. The most interesting commercial opportunity is an impressive rooftop restaurant space with sweeping skyline vistas, accessed by an express elevator. Although the development team has yet to announce a tenant for the rooftop, the space looks very promising.

The Draper development is steps from the Argyle CTA stop. For renters opting to own a car, the transit-oriented building has access to an existing 600-spot garage across the street, near the future home of the Timeline Theatre Company.

Rents at the Draper span a wide range but start at $1,200 for a studio and $1,300 for a one-bedroom. Larger units on the upper floors get into the high $2,000 range, according to Cedar Street. The development locates all of the city-mandated affordable housing units on-site.

The tower portion of the newly completed residential complex welcomed its first residents this month. The lower-rise wing—which features a new interior light well and landscaped courtyard—is expected to begin tenant move-ins in the coming weeks.

Heffron acknowledges that a single 342-unit development won’t necessarily make or break any given neighborhood, but he points to the Draper as a notable step in Uptown’s continuing evolution as well as Cedar Street’s continued activity in the area.

“Many renters want to be on the North Side of Chicago, but maybe they’re feeling priced out of Lincoln Park or other neighborhoods close to transit. We recognized that Uptown is not downtown, but we still think we can offer an interesting product with a unique identity and approachable starting rents. That’s what people are looking for.”

Meanwhile, Cedar Street has secured zoning approval for a second mid-rise apartment structure at 5083 N. Broadway. That project wraps around a historic three-story bank building and would include ground-floor retail space and up to 368 rental units.


Curbed Chicago | Jay Kozlarz

Published online on November 26th, 2019.