Total Transformation

Transforming a former refrigerated food distribution warehouse built in the early part of the 20th century into a contemporary winery—while respecting the structure’s original brick and timber construction–isn’t necessarily easy. However, City Winery, a wine bar, restaurant and concert venue, which opened this past August in downtown Chicago, is evidence of just that. Designed by New York-based Christopher Warnick Architecture, the project incorporates a number of glazing elements, including a three-story glass curtainwall, that help give the new building a stylish aesthetic.


“The new glass enclosure at the City Winery Chicago is used effectively to highlight our careful preservation of the original historic brick warehouse structure,” says architect Christopher Warnick. “The transparency of the glass enclosure contributes to a sense of being outdoors and is an appropriate material to manifest the transition from the outdoor courtyard areas to the interior winery, restaurant and music venue areas.”

According to Mac Hines, president of Illinois Glassworks LLC, the contract glazier on the job, the project called for renovating the old building into a 32,000-square foot contemporary winery and hospitality facility. Bob Criz, senior project manager, and previous president of Arcadia Residential Inc., now part of Illinois Glassworks, says the company has traditionally focused on high-end custom residential projects in the $5-10 million range that incorporate commercial products.

“We’ve expanded our scope into smaller, custom, high-end commercial projects and this is the largest one of these we’ve tackled. It’s a new niche for us and we’re doing more and more now.” Criz also worked closely with David Crogan, project manager.

Summit Design+Build was the general contractor and selected Illinois Glassworks as its glazier to complete the project.

“While we technically agreed to the contract on May 15, our team worked with Summit and the owner’s rep on a handshake well before the contract was inked,” says Hines. “There were significant questions about how the building would go together and we felt orchestrating the shop drawings and field measurements early was key to making this project go well. It was many, many long nights for our guys.”

Hines explains the owner and architect wanted to transform a dark and dirty warehouse into an open inviting winery and VIP dining area.

“We had to respect the 100-plus year old building’s brick and timber construction while inserting exterior glass openings that welcomed light and street traffic from the Randolph Street market,” says Hines. “We did this in early June and as we worked, the masons were busy shoring up the brick above our openings and right about then, we had our first 90-plus degree day of heat.”

Hines says they next added interior glass elements separating the winery from the VIP dining and bar area.


“Then, we worked on the largest element of the job, a three-story glass curtainwall that serves as the entrance to the restaurant and venue,” says Hines. “We worked with our suppliers to expedite the materials and they really came through.”

Metal products were supplied by CMI Architectural in Minneapolis.

“They were crucial and tremendous partners in terms of the engineering and meeting the schedules,” says Criz, explaining the project featured several different glazing configurations. These included four-sided structural silicone glazing, captured curtainwall as well as a number of interior glazing partitions. Glass was fabricated by Oldcastle BuildingEnvelope®, which worked with PPG products. Arcadia Architectural Products also supplied materials, including interior sliding doors.

Hines says, “Six days a week, our guys went out there fabricating the metal and later installing the glass. It seemed every day that July was above 90 and many were 100-degrees. We set the last piece of glass on July 27.”

According to Criz, scheduling was a significant challenge.

“We had a narrow time frame,” he says, explaining that once they received approval in May, owners then wanted the project complete by July 30. Criz admits he was skeptical. “They had acts booked already for August 13, but as it happened everything fell into place and we finished by the end of July.”

“As we were finishing up on July 27, inspections were being done and within two weeks, the entertainer Lewis Black opened City Winery Chicago to a packed house,” says Hines.

He adds, “Our guys were heroes, plain and simple. Not only was the work done on time, but at the highest architectural quality. To think that our guys did it in the hottest heat wave anyone can remember is unbelievable.”

Criz says, “The unique part about this operation is it allows the public to see the mechanics of the wine being made. The amount of glass on the job affords the transparency to look and see the functions of the winery. It opens it up for people to view how it’s made. The glass also makes the interior very bright and helps and brings in lots of light.”