Park Boulevard

New advances in the planning and design of affordable housing

The 1958 Stateway Gardens high-rise complex was among several Chicago Housing Authority Apartments in the State Street Corridor. Typical of many Chicago public housing developments of the era, Stateway created a large volume of housing, but its buildings were physically detached from the surrounding urban fabric and its residents’ well-being was inadequately monitored by authorities. The social and economic misfortune that befell the residents led to deterioration of the built environment, prompting demand for change. This eventually led to the demolition of all of this site’s buildings between 2000 and 2006 to make way for a new and improved mixed-income community.

Now named Park Boulevard, the Stateway site offers a variety of housing choices in a new neighborhood built on traditional Chicago planning principles. The Park Boulevard Master Plan features a mixture of market-rate, affordable and subsidized housing, ground floor retail space on major streets, parking concealed from the street and open space for recreation. VOA has updated the Park Boulevard Master Plan several times during the last five years and designed several of the buildings for the new neighborhood. Building I, VOA’s first project, was completed in 2011. VOA-designed Buildings J, M, N, T opened in the summer of 2015.

Park Boulevard Master Plan, Aerial View

Park Boulevard Master Plan, Aerial View

Development of Park Boulevard is ongoing. The primary objective of the development is to create a traditional, urban, mixed-income neighborhood featuring a variety of housing unit products in diverse, non-repetitive buildings. The Master Plan guidelines call for low-rise and mid-rise buildings that vary in expression and directly face rebuilt city streets that were closed in 1958.

Urban fabric
The first important step at Park Boulevard was reconnecting the development with the surrounding urban fabric. The original Master Plan called for re-establishing Chicago’s street and alley infrastructure which had been removed in the 1958 urban renewal. To reinforce the restored street grid, Park Boulevard buildings are built to the edge of blocks with facades that consistently adhere to building setback lines on all streets in the development. The housing now brings eyes close to the street and connects residents with the city and with each other.

Building I

Building I

A variety of architecture
Park Boulevard avoids the repetitive strategies found in previous generations of public housing. Its buildings are intentionally varied in scale, height, fenestration and material composition.

One of the first buildings to be built in Phase 2 of the Master Plan, Building I is a five-story 80-unit apartment building featuring generous living rooms and bedrooms, community space on the ground floor and a rooftop terrace for the residents. The five-story building provides one-bedroom and two-bedroom dwelling units. The units’ floor area typically exceeds the city’s minimum requirement by 15 per cent. One off-street parking space for each resident is provided either on the ground level (where there are no dwelling units) or behind the building out of view from the street. The variety of brick and stone colors and the unusual staggered windows add visual interest to the façade. The greatest challenge was to maximize space in its (56) one-bedroom and (24) two-bedroom dwelling units on a small site. The solution includes living spaces that “reach out” over the front yard setback with large concrete bay windows that admit generous amounts of natural light, expand views and provide additional floor space.

Buildings M and N

Buildings M and N

Part of Phase 2 and opened in 2015, the units in buildings J, M and N also offer generous views and transparency. They are contemporary buildings inspired by traditional Chicago rowhouse architecture. They also are designed to relate to single family homes that are to be built nearby during Phase 3. Their design repeats the successful strategy of incorporating overhanging bays that expand the livable space. Building J adds ground floor retail to the mix, setting the stage for job creation, encouraging the availability of basic services and further connecting the development with the urban fabric. Continuous floor-to-ceiling windows facing State Street showcase the office and tenant recreation space inside. One off-street parking space is also provided for each resident of these buildings, out of view from the street.

Building J

Building J

 

Building T

Building T

Building T features a striking contemporary design in charcoal grey Norman brick and silver metal accents. It provides 72 one-bedroom and two-bedroom apartments and 1:1 parking for its mix of market-rate, affordable and CHA housing residents. Windows on the west side of the recreation space look out to a landscaped terrace for the residents. Two additional terraces on the roof feature sun-shielding trellis structures to either side of the penthouse. With its roof terrace, outdoor common areas, views, and unique entrance canopy featuring a map of the development area, it makes a strong connection with the outdoors and the city.

Buildings M, N and T face across their streets to a large greenspace on the west side of State Street. This generous park is central to the development, providing an attractive outdoor recreation area for all Park Boulevard residents.

Lasting materials and amenities for a modern lifestyle
The exterior envelopes of VOA’s Park Boulevard buildings are built to last. The designs all feature Norman brick veneer, architectural belt courses, window sills and lintels, and high-performance insulating windows. The dwelling units include amenities typically found in contemporary market-rate housing in the city: controllable heating and air conditioning, quality cabinetry, energy efficient kitchen appliances, mini blinds, durable carpeting or sheet flooring, well-appointed bathrooms, pre-wiring for cable/internet/phone, plus convenient laundry facilities and assigned parking.

Sustainability

Green roofs, Buildings M and N

Green roofs, Buildings M and N

While not LEED-certified, the buildings employ numerous sustainable features and strategies. Building I has permeable pavers to define all parking and vegetated roofing covers 32% of its roof area. Buildings M, N and T feature green roofs as well. Other sustainable features include energy-efficient gas furnaces and water heaters, Energy Star appliances, windows with low-E glass, low-flow plumbing fixtures and white roof membranes.

Project Goals Exceeded
Ultimately, the goal of creating rich, varied and desirable dwellings with comfortable living spaces, good light and durable materials, reconnected to the neighborhood, was achieved at Park Boulevard.  The developers involved have invested significantly in the design and material quality of the buildings, creating a desirable urban habitat. The homes have proven popular—all have been immediately and completely occupied upon being opened. These are buildings designed to endure and be valued in this community for generations to come.

For more on engagement, download the new VOA Design Quarterly.

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