STL Architects shared with us their UNO Master Plan in the Gage Park community on the southwest side of Chicago, Illinois. This Master Plan not only offers an opportunity to revitalize the existing neighborhood and make it more vibrant and pedestrian oriented, but it also acts as a catalyst by attracting new business and investments such as educational facilities, a civic center and open green space. More images and architects’ description after the break.
Gage Park is a primarily Hispanic neighborhood near Midway Airport on the southwest side of Chicago. This neighborhood faces issues of overcrowding in schools, lack of open community spaces and an absence of opportunities for businesses to flourish.
This site is located in an industrial area that is in the process of transformation. Some businesses have already moved out, leaving behind vacant lots that present an opportunity for new re-development. The Master Plan targets the vacant lots along 51st Street and St. Louis Avenue in order to respond to social and economic needs of the residents.
One of the most important assets of Gage Park is the existence of a strong Hispanic community that shares strong family bonds and focuses on solid community interaction based on helping one another.
It is critical to address the importance of local entrepreneurial businesses that have created success along the Kedzie Street corridor. However, this neighborhood is also facing some difficulties, such as the existence of gangs that create nervousness among the residents. Other urban issues include congestion and overcrowding of housing, with many families living together in the same home. In addition, schools are filled to capacity and cannot provide the necessary support to their students.
Aside from the low density and the openness of the area, it lacks open green space, both passive and recreational, where children can play and community events can occur. The development of an educational Master Plan capable of dealing with these issues and the continued success of ongoing educational projects in the area will make Gage Park a model for the surrounding neighborhoods.
Defining the Site
Looking at the neighborhood from a different perspective, the Urban Analysis below reveals the physical characteristics of Gage Park such as the monotome industrial land use and the physical barriers that surround the area. This analysis added to the social and economical issues addressed before would be re-thought in the Master Plan through two main actions.
The first action is the creation of open space, both recreational and passive, in order to provide people with places where they can gather. The second action is the investment in education as a means to change the present and the future of young people. This would provide activities both during school and after school, allowing neighbors to engage in the process of building a stronger community.
Effective community planning must be by necessity; people-centric. By striving to address the needs of the whole person –the mind, the body and soul of an individual, the UNO campus brings together all of the elements of a truly complete urban 13 environment. Here, the community has been designed from the outset to nurture all of the needs of the whole person.
A new Civic Center represents an opportunity to repair the urban fabric, connecting loose ends, and to transform former industrial sites into spaces that can accommodate the needs of our urban life. This higher fabric connectivity will lead to an increase in urban activity and will positively impact property values.
Open Space 1. Provide a palette of different open spaces with a variety of uses to address neighborhood needs. 2. Create a diverse range of recreational spaces to favor community engagement. 3. All open spaces will be pedestrian oriented and will emphasize ecological sustainability.
Urban Form 1. Deliver special destinations and attractions by creating stunning settings for civic gatherings, celebrations and ephemeral events. 2. Avoid typical suburban spaces by increasing density with a strong civic center that will help bring the community together and interact with one other. 3. Enhance 21st century architecture design in a community that is looking to the future. 4. Maintain small-long parcel structure along 51st Street (with exception to the space between the plaza and park) to allow small local businesses to become established in the neighborhood.
Ecological Thinking 1. Reinforce pedestrian circulation by favoring pedestrian and bike movements by creating strong physical and visual connections to the plaza and the park. 2. Enhance efficiency and moderation in the use of materials, energy, and development space. 3. Increase water efficiency by using recycled rainwater to water green and favoring soft surfaces that would allow water filtration to the ground. 4. Regulate private automobile parking by controlling parking spaces 5. Use of Green Building Standards