If you’ve seen sheets of gleaming metal folded like paper around the façade of a building, you’ve probably seen the work of Evanston architect Andrew Spatz.
While he’s built several properties around the city, Spatz and his partner, Matthew Berry, are currently making their mark in downtown Evanston, with a 5-unit live/work space completed at 604-606 Davis St. in 2011 and another 4-unit live/work space called SKYlofts under construction at 1629 Oak Ave. Spatz expects that property to be completed in May 2014.
Both buildings downtown are rental only, and Spatz says the typical tenants are creative types like graphic designers, photographers or startup businesses.
“The neat thing about all of our projects is, spaces can get ganged together,” he says. “There’s what I call breakthroughs. Your business grows, and, ‘Gee, I need more space.’ We monitor that.”
Compared to many of the other new construction apartment projects going up around Evanston—such as 1717 Ridge, the AMLI apartments or the E2 project underway at 1890 Maple—SKYlofts are one of a kind. The angular metal surrounding the building departs completely in style from the brick apartments across the street or the columns of the Evanston Post Office on the corner.
Due to constraints of the site and city code, the building itself is also raised up on stilts, meaning the first floor of each unit sits 12 feet above the ground, according to Spatz. Renters park behind the building, while cisterns for rainwater drainage are located directly under the building.
The building itself is also constructed to conserve energy, with thicker walls that offer two to three times as much insulation as the typical house. Each two-story unit will be about 1,600 square feet, with a main room that takes up both floors and has a 20-foot window in front.
“Nobody out there has a space with that kind of volume,” he says.
Inside, the plans for each unit will be similar, but with nuances that make each apartment distinct. For example, every apartment has a front window wall, but the shape is different. Two units face west onto Oak Avenue, while the other two face east.
“They’re pretty much the same, but they’re completely different,” Spatz says. “I don’t know how to explain it any better than that.”
Two parking spaces will be included, and rent will be about $3,400 a month, on average, according to Spatz. He expects the units to lease quickly, like the ones on Davis Street, which were rented within three weeks.
Once SKYlofts is complete, Spatz will have a total of 63 units around Evanston. Those units are unique in that Spatz and Berry design and manage construction of all of the properties, while Spatz and his other partner, Signe Adas, handle development, leasing and property management. Spatz says he often collects rent himself, in person.
Why rentals, rather than condominiums? Spatz uses the analogy of rental cars on vacation.
“People will take a risk when they go on vacation, and they’ll rent a Porsche, they’ll rent a Mercedes,” he says. “Will they invest in that vehicle with their hard-earned cash? No.”
Beyond the buildings on Davis Street and Oak Avenue downtown, Spatz’s other properties include Christ Temple MB Church, at 1711 Simpson St., another set of apartments called CINEMAlofts, at 930 Pitner St., and theSTAMPFACTORY, a 19-unit building at Dewey and Payne with multi-level office and live/work spaces.
Spatz also built and designed his first home in Evanston, called metalHOUSE 1, in 1984. Like many of the other buildings he has designed and built over his thirty-year career, this one is topped with angular sheets of aluminum, and the spaces inside include two-story rooms and exposed structural elements. It was also featured on HGTV’s “Extreme Homes.”
He currently lives right next door—in a home he also designed and built, aptly called metalHOUSE 2. It is similar in design and structure to the first metalHOUSE, and also has a highly insulated exterior to conserve energy. While he built the first house for himself, he built the second with his family in mind, and interviewed every member like a client, to determine their preferences.
“I’ve been doing it this way for a long time,” he says, of his style. “If you look at what I did in school, it’s been an evolution.”
“You evolve or die,” he adds.