Reimagining Beaubien Woods


With nature in mind, architects, urban planners, city officials, community members collaborate to envision a vibrant and connected future for the far-South Side.

How can improving access to forest preserve natural areas improve quality of life and play a role in unifying the South Side of Chicago? Beaubien Woods Forest Preserve sits adjacent to five communities on the southernmost edge of the city and next to the Little Calumet River. Complete with a boat launch, youth programming—and, in proximity to regional biking trails—the woods are rife with possibility. Yet the area remains secluded and underserved, risking isolation from the new civic and cultural developments soon coming to the South Side.

To inspire a more vibrant and interconnected region, Chicago architects will come together with community members, planning and transit experts, and city officials for a collaborative design workshop to address issues of connectivity and community, with the goal of improving overall quality of life via improved access to nature.

The workshop will prompt three interdisciplinary teams of architects, planners, developers, transit specialists, and civic officials to create design solutions to address three challenges faced by the community:

COMMUNITY: How can design and infrastructure address childcare, health, wellness, and economic opportunities to ensure access for all members of the community?
NATURE: Five underserved neighborhoods sit in proximity to a thriving nature preserve cherished by birders, boaters, and outdoor enthusiasts. How can design solutions be employed to improve access to the Beaubien Woods and increase stewardship through programming?
CONNECTIONS: The impending Obama Presidential Center and Library, Red Line El extension to 130th street, and completion of the Pullman National Monument promise new opportunities for the area. How can designers and transportation planners envision a region connected by rail, foot and bicycle?

Designers will meet with community members on May 10th, and will convene Friday, May 11 to work on developing design concepts surrounding the three themes.

On Saturday, May 12, the public is invited to attend an Open House to view the results of the charrette and celebrate the future of Beaubien Woods and the many communities that surround it. The event includes presentations by the three design teams, opportunities for questions, and socializing among residents and affiliated organizations. The event coincides with Chicago River Day organized by Friends of the Chicago River, with stewardship activities hosted by the Field Museum and Metropolitan Planning Council at the Beaubien Woods boat launch site. LEARN MORE ABOUT SATURDAY'S EVENT HERE.

The design workshop is funded by a grant from the Chicago Community Trust given to the Cook County Forest Preserves, and organized by AIA Chicago and partnering organizations including the Cook County Forest Preserve, Metropolitan Planning Council, American Planning Association, American Association of Landscape Architects, Chicago Housing Authority, and The Field Museum, among other neighborhood groups from the Beaubien area.