After sitting vacant for more than four decades, the printing facility for the iconic Sears, Roebuck & Co. catalog has been transformed into 181 units of affordable housing in Chicago.

The adaptive-reuse project serves as an anchor in the Homan Square neighborhood, a master-planned community that began decades ago as a vision to revitalize the North Lawndale community by redeveloping the Sears headquarters complex, which relocated to downtown Chicago in 1973.

The Lofts on Arthington, developed by Mercy Housing Lakefront, provides 79 one-bedroom, 52 two-bedroom, 40 three-bedroom, and 10 four-bedroom units for families earning 30% and 60% of the area median income. Residents also will have on-site access to programs and supportive services, such as pre-K education, in-unit neonatal health care, and job training.

“It’s amazing how the provision of high-quality, stable affordable housing immediately has a transformative effect because people have a chance to stretch incomes to do other things in their life,” says Mark Angelini, president of Mercy Housing Lakefront. “Having to spend 30% versus 50% of income on housing has an immediate stabilizing effect and helps people plan for their futures.”

Completed at the end of March with full occupancy expected in August, the renovations were substantial. The interior of the building was demolished to its supporting columns and as many historic elements as possible preserved, such as a series of medallions associated with the medieval guilds that represented printing and the printing press. The lobby was moved to the apex of the L-shaped building and restored to its original condition.

The $63.8 million redevelopment utilized multiple layers of financing, including tax-exempt bonds as well as historic and low-income housing tax credits. Citibank provided the debt, and RBC Capital Markets provided the tax credit equity. In addition, the Chicago Housing Authority covered the capital construction costs for 66 of the 181 units.