As part of the City of Chicago’s Invest-Southwest initiative to help offset decades worth of disinvestment on the south and west sides of Chicago, the southern neighborhood of Auburn-Gresham was selected amongst ten different communities to receive improvements.
The original proposal consisted of 60 residential units ranging from one to three-bedroom apartments and included retail opportunities at street level in hopes of spurring development along a historically active but currently uninhabited retail corridor.
The process began with two listening sessions located at various public venues within the neighborhood; a local high school and a field house. At these two sessions residents were asked to perform various mapping exercises that included pinpointing where the resident lived, worked, shopped, or played and another exercise involving members of the community to fill in the blank for, “I want Auburn-Gresham to…”. These simple exercises allowed the design team to review not only the wants of the community but also the gaps that were currently existing within the neighborhood.
As the city saw the success of the multiple site option, they allowed the design team to gain another site along the corridor. This multi-site initiative was what finally spurred community acceptance and excitement for the project.
What was once 60 units on one site was re-imagined onto two sites along the 79th street corridor. The act of de-densifying the original proposal met the concerns that the community voiced during the outreach sessions. The original proposal site consists of 28 units atop ground level retail. A suspended bridge connects the residential units at the upper floors while also floating above the ground plane to allow the public to be drawn into a plaza and park at the rear. The additional site, which is two blocks away, consists of 30 units with ground floor retail and a rooftop deck that welcomes views of the Chicago skyline, something prominent in north side neighborhoods, but not usually found on the south side. Retail spaces in both buildings are to be occupied by store-owners and tenants that represent the community.