Walgreens, 1601 N. Wells St. Credit: Jake Wittich/Block Club Chicago

OLD TOWN — The developers behind an overhaul of several Old Town properties want feedback on six possible designs for the to-be-redeveloped Walgreens on Wells Street.

Fern Hill revealed designs last week for the Walgreens, 1601 N. Wells St., which will serve as the base of a 36-story apartment tower with a sunrise inspired design.

The development firm said the Walgreens, which is one of several properties Fern Hill is revamping across Old Town, needs to “relate to the unique character of Old Town’s ‘Main Street.'”

The six new designs for the building include:

  • Modern Rhythms: a masonry facade that reflects the “rhythms, materials and proportions of Wells Street.”
  • Piper’s Alley Echoes: a red-brick facade that mimics the arched openings and materials that characterize Old Town.
  • Second City Gateway: a brick facade with arches and details that reference the Second City building.
  • Edgar Miller Legacy: an approach that takes inspiration from Edgar Miller designs seen throughout the neighborhood.
  • Old Town Art Fair: a facade with changeable art panels that showcase neighborhood events, artists or partnerships with the Old Town Triangle Association Art Fair.
  • Townhome Tapestry: a brick facade with masonry textures reminiscent of traditional Old Town townhomes with a modern approach.

Neighbors can share feedback on the designs using Fern Hill’s interactive community engagement website on CoUrbanize.

Renderings show the six design ideas Fern Hill has for the Walgreens in its massive Old Town project. Credit: Provided/Fern Hill

The Walgreens is one of several properties that would be developed under Fern Hill’s plan, which includes a partnership with the neighboring Moody Church campus around 1635 N. LaSalle Drive.

The proposed changes include:

  • The 395-foot apartment tower at North Avenue and LaSalle Drive.
  • Removal of the BP and Shell gas stations at 1647 N. LaSalle Drive and 130 W. North Ave. so Moody can expand its administrative offices.
  • Redevelopment of the Walgreens to modernize its storefront while allowing for part of the tower to be built above it.
  • Transformation of the vacant Treasure Island store, which developers are working to fill with a new grocer.
A rendering shows GREC Architects’ designs for Fern Hill’s proposed apartment tower in Old Town. Credit: Provided/Fern Hill/GREC Architects
The color palette of Fern Hill’s tower was inspired by a photo of a sunrise on Lake Michigan. Credit: Provided/Fern Hill/GREC Architects

The high-rise tower would have 500 apartments, including 100 that would be rented out at an “affordable” rate of 60 percent of the median income, Nick Anderson, founder and president of Fern Hill, said during a September community meeting.

The building would have two ground-floor retail shops, including Walgreens, and 150 parking spaces for tenants, Anderson said.

The facade would be made of glass and metal elements with color applied to the metal to create a mosaic affect, Don Copper of GREC Architects said during the community meeting.

The architects used a photo of the sun rising on Lake Michigan, converted it into an abstract image highlighting its color palette and applied those colors to the facade, Copper said.

This approach was inspired by Old Town’s history as an artistic hub and home to the long-standing Old Town Art Fair, Copper said.

Fern Hill plans to overhaul the vacant Treasure Island space and fill it with a new grocery store. Credit: Provided/Fern Hill/GREC Architects

Other proposed changes include the expansion of Moody Church’s campus into the lots that currently house the BP and Shell gas stations, as well as an overhaul of the Walgreens and former Treasure Island.

Moody’s expansion would include a new chapel and new buildings for its administrative offices and educational spaces, Anderson said.

GREC’s designs for that expansion place the new buildings around 50 feet tall, which is in line with Moody’s existing sanctuary and classroom buildings, Anderson said.

The vacant building that once housed Treasure Island will also get an upgrade, Anderson said. Fern Hill is working to fill that space with another grocery store, which has been a frequent request from neighbors throughout the community engagement process.

As of September, Anderson said Fern Hill had not found a grocery tenant, but the firm remained optimistic their efforts to reinvigorate the neighborhood would attract new interest in the space.

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