Uptown Normal 2.0:
This project was completed while working at Farr Associates (Chicago, IL).
Master Plan Update
In 2014, the Town of Normal decided it was time update their highly successful 2000 Uptown Renewal Plan, which over the last 15 years, has guided over $140 million in redevelopment projects. Farr Associates, planners who led the 2000 process, returned to lead the Plan Update. Plan components work together to both expand the economic development footprint in Uptown south of the railroad tracks and raise the bar on sustainability.
The area known as Uptown South is 9.3-acres of Town-owned property. It currently houses scattered one-story Town office and facilities buildings and large parking lots. As part of the Plan Update, a new vision for this area was developed where the underutilized Town-owned buildings would be razed, making way for the new Underpass Park, mixed use, and residential buildings in the heart of Uptown. With proposing something so transformative, our team wanted to understand what new development was feasible on the site. To accomplish this, we utilized a targeted downtown housing study and retail/commercial analysis. The results found potential for 980 new residential units spread across apartments, condos, live/work lofts, and townhomes. The commercial study found support for up to 79,000 sf of new retail by 2020. Armed with this information, our design team developed a land use plan and master plan for the site that sets eight new building types with a maximum of six stories on several new streets. The Town’s library will also relocate to a site in South Uptown, providing a civic anchor on the site.
It's called a "challenge" for a reason
The Town of Normal was an early adopter of LEED-ND, with Uptown certifying as a Silver pilot project in 2009. By 2014, they were ready for the “next thing” and became one of three nationally-registered projects for the Living Community Challenge. It is called a “challenge” for a reason. The rigorous standards require both net-positive energy and water systems onsite. The ILFI evaluation of the program and site concluded that both water and energy goals could be met onsite, but not without considerable reductions in baseline usage. Project building users would need to reduce baseline water consumption by 60% and energy use by 67%– no small feat. While build out of the Project will take ten years or more, technology can improve, but much of this reduction will come from occupant behavior change. Additionally, LCC prohibits the use of any Red List materials– many which are commonly found in construction and infrastructure material. There is a working Red List for building materials, however, a specific Red List of materials does not yet exist for infrastructure. The project will be on the forefront of identification and alternatives discovery for these materials in urban design, utilities, and infrastructure contexts.