John D. and Alexandra C. Nichols Tower

Working with the Foundation for Homan Square, SCB completed the detailed adaptive reuse and renovation for Nichols Tower, which is part of the greater redevelopment at the former site of the Sears Catalog Facility in Chicago.


Foundation for Homan Square


Chicago, IL

Nichols Tower is a National Historic Landmark and acts as a hub for arts and multi-media education, youth leadership development, job training, and urban farming. SCB developed a plan for renovating the interior of the tower while using the skeleton of the original building.
In order to maintain the eligibility for the tax credits to be used for the renovation, the design team was required to follow Secretary of Interior Design Guidelines as enforced by the National Parks Service. Due to the building’s historic significance, SCB was faced with challenge of needing to complete new construction without altering the original elements of the building. Requirements and design elements for the renovation include retaining the existing open stair, restoring the top floor to serve as a showpiece of the original construction/finishes and as a gathering space for special functions, and restoring the ground floor/lobby.

The project’s restoration included replicating plaster work, refinishing wood floors, repairing the mezzanine walkway around the upper level of the space, and adding new lighting. The ground floor lobby was amended to show two unique periods of style that are significant to the building’s history. SCB modernized one of the typical floors, with the original construction intact, to retain elements and layouts of the partitioning and fenestration in the corridor. A new floor was inserted above the top floor, adding more usable space to the building. This floor houses restroom facilities and a pantry to service the space. SCB conducted test fits and developed much of the palette of materials and colors used in the interior construction.