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November 08, 2018

Cornerstone Center’s Renovation Tells the Story of Today’s Chicago

Every building tells a story. When architects, designers and building owners spec Sloan products for their commercial restroom designs, we believe our hard work and expertise, in a small but meaningful way, helps them tell that story.

Some stories, however, are bigger than others.

Cornerstone Center tells a story that makes us proud of our home town. A standalone building that serves as the community center for Chicago’s LaSalle Street Church, Cornerstone Center is a mini-city of non-profit organizations that help diverse groups coexist in one of the city’s most dynamic neighborhoods.

Martin Luther King spoke about the ‘Beloved Community,’ where there’s space for everybody,” says Senior Pastor Laura Truax. “That’s what we’re trying to do on the near north side.”

 “An instinct for building a new community”

 “Today we have condos going for $1.5 million within blocks of what used to be the largest public housing complex in the city,” Truax says, describing the neighborhood LaSalle Street Church serves.  “Our challenge is, how do you create space for the working poor that also welcomes these new people?”

She says Cornerstone Center embodies “an instinct for building a new community. People of goodwill can work in silos, but a call to the common good breaks down all the silos. It connects us around a shared impulse that we are better together. We need each other. There’s common bedrock we all share. It’s often unspoken, but we know it when we have it.

Organizations housed in Cornerstone Center house serve every facet of the community’s needs: Cornerstone Academy High School, for kids who have fled violent neighborhoods; a counseling center; a music instruction school founded by jazz legend Orbert Davis; feeding programs for the homeless and senior citizens; Alcoholics Anonymous groups and more.

When church leaders decided to completely renovate the center’s ground floor — including the restrooms — they knew serving all those groups would be a challenge.

 “Indestructible and beautiful

LaSalle Street Church teamed with Tom Stringer Design Partners, which registered with the OnePlus program to contribute pro bono design and contracting services for the Cornerstone Center renovation.

“The existing space had to be brought up to current standards for its wide variety of purposes, from feeding the homeless to daycare to a rec center to a reception hall,” says the firm’s Partner and Vice President John Cialone. “It was stuck in 70s or 80s, and really only appropriate as a gym. It didn’t feel good for the homeless, and it was not a first choice for a wedding.”

Truax says, “We knew the space had to speak to the poor, who have a well-honed antenna for when they’re not welcome. Their dignity means a lot to us. But the same space could host a wedding rehearsal Friday and three different classes Sunday morning.

“It had to be both indestructible and beautiful.”

 “These restrooms do triple duty”

When a space is shared by such a diverse group of people, its restrooms are pivotal.

“These restrooms do triple duty,” says Truax. “For the homeless, it may be their primary restroom. The reality is that some of them will clean up in there. So they have to be savvy and practical, but also beautiful enough to impress people who come for fundraisers. They have great lighting, so you can reapply your makeup.”

The restroom renovation included Sloan hardwired, deck-mounted gooseneck faucets, deck-mounted soap dispensers and G2 sensor flushometers. Cialone says, “All our research showed Sloan was the right choice. I like the way these fixtures look — they just feel very current, but not too avant garde. They’re ADA compliant and easy to use.

“We chose the flushometers for low water consumption and minimum impact on the environment. These bathrooms will get a lot of use.”

Truax adds, “Sustainability is a goal for Cornerstone Center — we desire to make our building as water and energy efficient as possible. Sloan represents a real step forward —it’s so great to work with them.”

“We want people to feel comfortable and at home in these restrooms,” says Cialone. “It’s a true honor to be involved in this important project.”

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