The Pullman National Monument is a must-see treasure of Chicago’s south side. The formerly independent industrial town, now a landmark Chicago neighborhood, was entrusted in February 2015 to the National Park Service via Presidential proclamation.
There is much to celebrate in the area due to the decree and yet, there are also many questions about what’s next for this national monument, and what the new designation means collectively for the Pullman neighborhood, the neighboring Roseland community, and the larger Calumet region.
In April 2015, the American Institute of Architects (AIA) Chicago and the National Parks Conservation Association (NPCA), with support from The Richard H. Driehaus Foundation, The Chicago Community Trust, and the Alphawood Foundation, conducted a three day community design workshop in an effort to start addressing some of these questions. The purpose of the workshop was to engage the public in discussions with the Chicago design community regarding opportunities for enhancing the park visitor experience while leveraging the new national designation to advance important community development goals.
The workshop and subsequent plan, “Positioning Pullman” – lead by AS+GG’s City Design Director, Richard Wilson – established a blueprint for the development and growth for the Pullman National Monument and the surrounding neighborhood. The workshop weekend began with a well-attended community meeting at the historic Greenstone Church to introduce the planning process, and to have one-on-one discussions with members of the design team. The following day, the team worked at the historic Hotel Florence envisioning design and policy concepts to enhance the function and appearance of Pullman, while addressing business and job growth, environmental stewardship and regional connectivity.
On the last day of the workshop, a public open house in the north wing of the historic Pullman Factory building attracted nearly 400 participants. The open house offered the opportunity for the technical teams to talk through their findings and report out on their recommendations with the community. The conversations then centered on fine tuning the content, aligning goals and priorities, and identifying stakeholders that can help advance implementation.
In full, the design workshop focused on four main areas, and produced concrete ideas from the intensive design process: PARK EXPERIENCE: Strategies for demarcating and celebrating the boundaries of the district; strategies to enable discovery and/or self-guided park visitation tracts; strategies for conveying stories of factory life and neighborhood life via tactical urbanism; and strategies for linkage to regional trails and waterfronts.
HISTORIC PRESERVATION + ADAPTIVE REUSE: Strategies for programming and reuse of historic structures; strategies for commemorating important buildings that have been lost; strategies for interpretive landscape and streetscape enhancements based upon the historic design; and guidelines for the construction of new buildings to support the historic character of the district.
ACCESS + CONNECTIONS: Strategies for arrival by commuter train featuring historic Pullman train cars to create a unique railscape experience; strategies for arrival by car that address parking and wayfinding; and strategies for the development of a comprehensive bicycle and pedestrian walking network.
COMMUNITY DEVELOPMENT: Strategies to leverage the national monument designation to grow visitation and local business; strategies to grow career paths for local youth; and strategies to physically and economically tie into ongoing Lake Calumet initiatives, while growing environmental stewardship and creating a new southern gateway to the city of Chicago.
Based upon public feedback from the open house the technical team then refined the workshop material and prepared this “Ideas Book” of design and community enhancement recommendations.
Pullman is positioning itself to welcome people from around the world as a result of its new national monument status. As one of the premier national urban parks in America, it is an important development for the National Park Service as it approaches its centennial celebration in August 2016. The lessons learned at Pullman could help shape policy, partnerships, and design over the course of the next 100 years.