Jim Scholz

The Mark Twain, a historic residential hotel that suffered from years of neglect, has been restored to its former glory in Chicago’s Gold Coast neighborhood.

To rescue the landmark property, The NHP Foundation (NHPF) executed an ambitious plan to recapitalize and rehabilitate the building, prevent displacement of existing residents, and preserve the long-term affordability of the housing in the gentrifying neighborhood.

“This project is the confluence of policy, innovative financing, design, and development,” says Mecky Adnani, NHPF senior vice president.

The Mark Twain is one of the first projects under Chicago’s SRO Preservation Ordinance, which aims to protect many of the city’s old single-room occupancy buildings as affordable housing. It’s also NHPF’s first major development in Chicago.

As a result, the nonprofit worked closely with key partners and local officials, including Alderman Walter Burnett Jr. “They were all aboard because they were all public and private partners with the same mission to preserve this valuable affordable and historic housing resource in a gentrifying and rapidly growing neighborhood of Chicago,” Adnani says.

Jim Scholz

The project included upgrading all 148 units with added kitchens, installing new plumbing and electrical systems, making accessibility improvements, adding a roof deck, and restoring the building’s original parlor and historic features. NHPF committed to setting aside 30 units for the homeless and special-needs populations and committed to set aside 10 units for the Statewide Referral Network, which also assists individuals challenged by homelessness or a disability.

Many of the residents were long-term tenants who now benefit from project-based vouchers that cover all the apartments. Prior to the acquisition, there was no rental assistance. Residents also have access to new on-site and off-site services.

Financing for the $54.3 million development includes a combination of low-income housing and historic tax credits.