Going Off the Grid

With an architect’s help, a North Side couple turns a ComEd substation into a single-family home with solar panels and other “green” features

An artist’s rendering of the planned home
An artist’s rendering of the planned home

LIST PRICE: Not available
SALE PRICE: $3.75 million

Last year, Bruce and Michele Gelman paid $3.75 million for a former Commonwealth Edison substation across from the Newberry Library. Now, with the help of the architect Michael Hershenson, the couple is transforming the 93-year-old building into a “green” single-family home.

In converting the two-story building, Hershenson has added another two stories and opened up the dark center with an atrium. He enlarged the small openings on the largely windowless façade, while retaining the tile-and-glass Prairie style detailing. The project, which Hershenson says will be completed this fall, includes solar panels, a green roof, and a geothermal system that relies on stable belowground temperatures to manage indoor climate control. (As Hershenson notes, the decision to salvage the original structure, rather than demolish it and consume resources to build anew, is a key green feature in its own right.) A onetime parking lot will become the home’s front yard, with a grove of trees set behind a long gatehouse.

Neither Bruce Gelman, a lawyer at Kirkland & Ellis, nor Hershenson would comment on the total cost of the renovation and expansion, and Michele Gelman, a homemaker, could not be reached for comment. The Gelmans’ current home, an 1890 townhouse a block away, is on the market with an asking price of $1.85 million.


Send tips about high-end home sales to Dennis@Rodkin.com

Illustration: Courtesy Michael Hershenson Architects


5 years ago
Posted by AndrewWilson

I really appreciate this article, and the project. Reusing existing buildings in an urban environment is the most sustainable ways that we can improve Chicago.

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5 years ago
Posted by CHI_ENG

I love how people use "green" to describe their homes when clearly a ten thousand sqft single family home should in no way be described as "green". Reusing existing buildings is a fantastic sustainable way of thinking but to chop up a building of this size and character for single family use is hardly sustainable or green. I would imagine that if the city actually audited this green home they would in fact find that it's not a green home at all


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