Landmark 1931, 583 room YMCA hotel property undergoes major rehab to a supportive housing center for low-income residents in the heart of Chicago’s upscale Gold Coast.
In its prime, Lawson was the flagship hotel property of the YMCA of Metropolitan Chicago, an architecturally striking building two blocks from Chicago’s glittering Michigan Avenue. During the 30’s and 40’s, Lawson provided a fresh start for thousands of young men searching for work. Through the early 70’s its fitness facility was frequented by some of city’s most prominent businessmen. By the 1980s, however, the Lawson YMCA had become Illinois’ largest single room occupancy hotel and the fitness facilities closed. Serving low and fixed-income and homeless adults, Lawson had fallen on hard times and was in dire need of renovation. The Y secured a $10M federal HUD grant to upgrade the Y’s rooms and exteriors and needed an additional $4M from private philanthropy. Earning its income from rent and governmental rental subsidies, the Lawson YMCA lacked both a membership base and a board from which philanthropy would come naturally.
"Earning income from primarily rent and governmental rental subsidies, the Lawson YMCA lacked both a membership base and a board from which philanthropy would come naturally."
K2 Role &
K2 strategically positioned the Y as a neighborhood and city asset, helping to attract a group of leaders that spearheaded the campaign. Part of the rebranding included a name change to the Lawson House YMCA with an important “Life Development Center” within.
A community outreach program generated both good will and gifts from neighbors and surrounding commercial interests that adopted the Lawson House YMCA as a valuable community asset.
Through the Lawson House campaign, Chicago made a statement of conscience that reflected the city’s commitment to its neediest residents. Today, Lawson House stands as a nationally-recognized model for supportive single room occupancy housing, and as a beacon of hope to hundreds who might otherwise be homeless.
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