The Mark Twain, Chicago

2020 Landmarks Illinois Richard H. Driehaus Foundation Preservation Award for Rehabilitation

The 1930 Art Deco Mark Twain has been rehabilitated from an aging and neglected affordable housing structure to a meticulously restored single-room occupancy residence. The 148 new single-room occupancy units, available at an affordable cost, feature in-unit kitchens, energy efficient MEP and HVAC systems and community spaces for residents. The interior and exterior of the Mark Twain, listed on the National Register of Historic Places, was preserved to highlight its historic character while at the same time meeting all Department of Housing requirements. Services provided in the building include financial literacy and health and wellness programming as well as tax and healthcare assistance. The Mark Twain is now a worthy and respectable neighbor in Chicago’s Gold Coast neighborhood, providing a critical need for affordable SRO units to serve individuals on the verge of homelessness. At the recent ribbon cutting in March of this year, Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot called the project a “win-win” for the city, providing affordable housing while also restoring an important community landmark and one of the largest remaining affordable housing developments in the area.

Project Principals

Developer/Sponsor: New Mark Twain, LLC, The NHP Foundation

Architect: Weese Langley Weese Architects Ltd.

Façade Consultant: Revive Architecture LLC

Historic Consultant: MacRostie Historic Advisors

General Contractor: Linn Mathes

Management Company: Realty & Mortgage Co.

Bonds/LIHTC/HOME Funds: City of Chicago, Department of Planning & Development

27th Ward Alderman: Walter Burnett, Jr.

Senior Lender: Bellwether Enterprise

Subordinate Lender: Chicago Community Loan Fund

Tax Credit Equity Investor: Enterprise Community Partners, Inc.

Project Rental Assistance: Chicago Housing Authority

(Photo credit: Leslie Schwartz Photography)


The NHP Foundation

NHP Foundation was the first nonprofit developer to undertake the preservation of SRO properties in Chicago in an affluent and gentrifying neighborhood, responding to an urgent affordable housing need explicitly called for in the 2014 Chicago SRO Preservation Ordinance. New to the Chicago market, NHPF’s response to the city’s SRO preservation need built us the political capital and experience to fulfill our affordable housing mission in this city and has allowed us to be a recognized developer and expand our affordable portfolio.

The impact on the neighborhood has already been significant as we embark on a new chapter for The Mark Twain, now a worthy and respected neighbor. The impact on the industry is also significant. SRO properties are critical to affordable housing as they serve individuals on the verge of homelessness or already homeless. We stress the necessity to build a strong and experienced team of design professionals and general contractors familiar with properties of this nature and age, financial partners that are knowledgeable about a variety of debt products, and LIHTC equity syndicators and investors that think critically and are compelled to collaborate. Mission-driven developers are called to solve the homelessness problem across the country and must undertake these types of projects. A successful project like The Mark Twain paves the way for other major cities to tackle homelessness and attract developers to participate.

(Photo credit: Leslie Schwartz Photography)

How did saving this place impact people in your community?

The NHP Foundation

There is a strong community voice for preservation of SROs, from groups such as OneNorthside, 27th Ward Ald. Walter Burnett Jr., HUD, Chicago Housing Authority and the Chicago Community Loan Fund, eager to prevent displacement of low-income residents and keep the area affordable for existing residents and others currently paying well above 30% of their income to rent (also known as “rent burdened”). The Mark Twain participates in Chicago’s Coordinated Entry System, which serves as a front door to connect people facing homelessness to housing and supports in an accessible, equitable, transparent manner. Chicago Housing Authority Project Based Voucher waitlists are coordinated with this system, allowing formerly homeless people to apply for CHA housing opportunities.

(Photo credit: Leslie Schwartz Photography)

Learn more

Attend the 2020 awards ceremony!


Support our advocacy

Be a voice for the future of our communities by supporting Landmarks Illinois. Our work enhances communities, empowers citizens, promotes local economic development and offers environmentally sound solutions.

Become A Member