2018 Merit Award
City of Chicago Department of Planning and Development
A severe rainstorm in 2013 caused 2,500 “water in basement” and 800 “water on street” complaints, damage to and shut downs of businesses, and flooding at train stations and bus stops across the City of Chicago (City) This prompted the City’s Mayor’s Office along with the planning, water management, transportation and emergency management entities, to prioritize strategies to reduce future stormwater impacts during peak storm events.
In early 2017, the City used grant funding to implement the Chicago Resilient Corridors project – concentrated stormwater landscapes (green infrastructure) on City-owned vacant lots in flood-affected neighborhoods. AECOM assembled a multi-disciplinary team that partnered with the Department of Planning and Development (DPD) to create a visionary, efficient, technically rigorous and inclusive community process. Ten (10) sites on three transitional commercial corridors (Chicago Avenue, 16th Street and Ogden Avenue) on the City’s West Side were developed, utilizing available data and resources to identify optimal locations for stormwater detention infrastructure, as well as frequent and effective community outreach that ensured social benefits for these neighborhoods.
Design included a range of green infrastructure strategies such as permeable pavements, rain gardens and bioswales that accept stormwater from streets, alleys and adjacent properties, Active community engagement generated the programming for each site, which included passive gardens, active recreation areas and public plazas. Construction was completed in fall 2018, and stewards such as a local business owner, the Chicago Botanic Garden and the YMCA are expected to lease the constructed parcels and maintain the specialized landscapes. As green infrastructure treatments have slightly more technical requirements than a typical community garden, a Resilient Corridors Project Manual was developed for the stewards, covering such components as site plans, volunteer tasks, resources and maintenance logs to facilitate long-term project success.
Chicago’s West Side was selected as an implementation area due to its representation of the City’s urban landscape, variety of land use types, and is home to diverse populations. Instead of capturing stormwater that only falls on-site, numerous corridor sites collect and detain stormwater from streets and alleys to relieve sewer mains, mitigating wet basements for a greater number of households In addition, the Chicago Resilient Corridors project demonstrates the impact smart, integrated implementation of green infrastructure can have on livability through open space amenities that are visually attractive, expand community space and reduce flooding.
The Chicago Resilient Corridors project has served as a springboard for the City’s broader green infrastructure program, which expands the model for stormwater capture with new partners. This project worked with communities to design memorable spaces, both active and passive, and to strengthen the public realm. It also introduced a new City paradigm – to create resilient places with long-term community stewards – that can be replicated in other neighborhoods. Any geography facing similar resilience issues can benefit from interdepartmental and regional collaboration, and a robust community engagement model. By integrating the Resilient Corridors with other diverse strategies of scale, the City can begin addressing its complex urban challenges with innovative solutions merging design and infrastructure.