MGLM Wins CNU Illinois 2013 Charter Award

Winter 2013

​CNU Illinois Comments: “The Near South Loop Master Plan [is] a richly detailed plan for establishing a vibrant neighborhood where railroad yards and pedestal buildings exist now.”

In Chicago’s Near South Loop there exists a large number of undeveloped & underdeveloped parcels, perhaps most notably, the site where Solon Beman’s Grand Central once stood. Near South Loop is the area located just south of the ‘Loop’ and is currently comprised of the neighborhoods known as Printer’s Row, Dearborn Park, and South Loop. This part of the city plays a vital role in the future of the downtown by supporting some of the Chicago’s most beloved places. The Loop, Grant Park and the lakefront, the Art Institute, numerous colleges, Museum Campus, Soldier Field, and the Chicago River are all within a comfortable walk. Despite its alluring proximities, the area has not yet been fully developed, and while it holds a complexity of constraints and as-yet unmitigated conditions, the opportunities are nearly endless.

The impetus for this master plan grew out of our desire to see improvements and frustration with the status quo. Further perpetuating the case, was our drive to support Chicago’s role in fostering U.S. High Speed Rail by showcasing the contemporary ability of a city to grow around a rail terminus. There are numerous ways the NSL can contribute to the vibrancy of Chicago’s downtown. This proposal lays out one scenario that attempts to best balance the needs and desires of a diverse and overlooked area situated at an important confluence in the City’s cultural, economic, and physical geography.

As general migration trends have more and more people opting to live and raise families in the city, established neighborhoods are filling up and once abandoned communities are being regenerated - breathing new life into old identities. The high-rise
lofts and converted warehouses are one sign of the transition happening throughout the South Loop. As this occurs, it makes us ever more aware of the pending need to craft a complete vision for the area. We must think of the NSL in its entirety and in its own regard (i.e. not just as a piece of the much larger South Loop), and this master plan for the Riverfront Quarter is our first contribution.

The plan lays out a complete, yet flexible, vision for growth in the South Loop including expansion of the central business center and completion of downtown neighborhood fabric. The mixed-use neighborhood would include a diversity of building types that fall with the T5 and T6 Transect Zones. Every aspect of the proposal is intrinsically linked to the city’s existing transit system and brings with it the density, framework, and demand for improved expansion of that system. A new light rail and multi-modal rail terminal would allow high-speed rail to be brought into the city core expressing Chicago’s commitment to transit at every scale.