Interface Studio was asked by the Wicker Park Bucktown Special Service Area (SSA) to create a master plan for 13 miles of street frontage along 6 separate commercial corridors in the Wicker Park and Bucktown neighborhoods in Chicago. The neighborhoods – long home to a mix of immigrants and a thriving underground culture fueled by local artists, musicians, writers, and other creators – are in the midst of rapid change. The area’s independent spirit, artistic self-expression, and collection of local restaurants and shops, coupled with its proximity to downtown and excellent transit access, have piqued mainstream interests, drawing investors and developers, an influx of new residents and commercial competition from national retailers. With soaring real estate prices and shifting demographics, the Wicker Park and Bucktown neighborhoods are becoming more transient, less diverse, and far more affluent.
The decision to undertake a plan for WPB’s commercial corridors was part of an effort to address the community’s shifting identity by engaging the public and bringing together the active, but often uninvolved constituency of neighbors, business owners, artists, institutions, investors, and visitors to think about the effects of change and develop a collective vision for the future of these shared spaces.
Using a vacant storefront, we worked with the SSA to integrate video story-telling, a photo suggestion booth, a budgeting game, a really large interactive map and a storefront video installation to activate the street at night.
The resulting plan developed ideas for each of the six, distinct commercial streets with an emphasis on making the community more walkable and bikeable; buying local; reinforcing the arts; creating new civic space; and making the community the greenest in Chicago. The SSA has used the plan to set their budgeting but also to drive other private and public investment which has been significant since the plan's completion. Very early actions include a number of pilot projects for yhe City in WPB plus thoughtful work by the SSA around greening and public art.
The Wicker Park Bucktown Master Plan, adopted in 2009, has since won three awards: the National Planning Excellence Award for Public Outreach from the American Planning Association (2010), the Special Achievement Award from the American Council of Engineering Companies – Illinois (2010), and a Charter Award from the Illinois Chapter of the Congress for New Urbanism (2009). To view the Master Plan, visit www.wickerparkbucktown.org.