Architect Richard Wilson, city planner with Adrian Smith + Gordon Gill Architecture, will discuss including public parks in Chicago's newest mega developments. Wilson recently partnered with community and civic leaders to propose one such park – the “North Branch Park and Preserve” – adjacent to Lincoln Yards, where massive new development is slated to replace a century-old industrial corridor.
Historically, as Chicago grew outward, civic leaders planned parks in advance of housing development and population growth. Now Chicago’s residential footprint is expanding again, but largely in the central city, where developers are proposing new neighborhoods on former railroad yards and industrial sites. City planners have asked developers to include "privately owned public spaces." But experience suggests that these "POPS" are no substitute for public parks.
The plans for these mega-developments offer "once-in-a-century" opportunities to shape Chicago's built environment. While the plans may originate with private developers, they demand public engagement, civic imagination and lasting public spaces. Chicago's legacy of forward-thinking park development is instructive. Using the North Branch Park & Preserve and Lincoln Yards as a case study, Wilson will make a case for including public parks in each of our new neighborhoods.