The Lofts at River East
Best Project

Owner: AH Rivers East LLC
Lead Design Firm: FitzGerald Associates Architects
Construction Manager: Ghafari Associates
Interior Designer: Stanton Interior Concepts

This $83-million renovation was put on hold shortly after construction began as the city of Chicago considered landmark status for the 108-year-old North Pier Terminal building. Originally known as the Pugh Terminal and Warehouse, it was the city’s first shipping terminal and product exhibition center. When the building was purchased and the condominium conversion planned, a preservation fight loomed.

Ghafari and its subcontractors worked with the city to assuage concerns about the conversion. The team gave special attention to maintaining the building’s integrity, both structural and architectural. The project, a retrofit of the 530,000-sq-ft, seven-story heavy-timber structure, creates 285 apartments and 140,000 sq ft of commercial space.

Upgrading it for the modern condo consumer would have been a challenge on a tight 18-month construction schedule, even before the interruption. The project team paid special attention to maintaining the building’s integrity, structure and original framing. Interior designer Stanton Interior Concepts thoroughly researched the history of the site by examining historical documents, surveys and photographs before updating the common areas and public spaces.

Uneven floor space and worn structural columns required critical repairs to maintain the building’s integrity. Converting to lofts meant demolition of all MEP systems, ceilings, floors and walls. That was followed by installation of new building systems, utilities and interior finishes. The exterior work included landscaping, envelope restoration, masonry, fenestration, a green roof and an outdoor deck.

Ghafari and its subcontractors leaned heavily on information from a laser scan of the structure (more than 600 individual 3D scans) to document conditions. Then designers created BIM models for planning and scheduling the installation of new systems.

The renovation took place while commercial tenants occupied some of the city-block-wide complex as well. Ghafari phased construction and coordinated teams to expedite tasks and minimize disruptions.

Related Article: A Great Year for Midwestern Innovation