The Village of Robbins is a historic African-American community located in southern Cook County, Illinois. Like many communities in the Chicagoland area, there is a need for investment and revitalization. With over 300 acres of vacant land, residents need to travel out of town for day-to-day services. In addition, the community suffers from stormwater flooding due to nearby Midlothian creek, which affects over 100 homes in the village.
Resiliency is at the heart of this project. Solving the flooding without displacement is a major priority for residents of Robbins, which the design team worked to accomplish through natural systems and restoring elements of the wetland ecology. The residents expressed interest in fishing, kayaking, and canoeing within this lake and using the area to educate youth on nature and ecology. The design takes the current flood site and creates an accessible park that can be a recreational amenity to the community, spark economic growth in adjacent areas, and address latent stormwater issues.
New strategic elements for Robbins Park include wetland edges that allow for water to be infiltrated, retained, detained, and filtered naturally before connecting to the Cal-Sag Channel and Little Calumet River. The nearby Calumet Water Reclamation Plant also offers resource recovery potential.
Although Robbins is a suburb of Chicago, its nearby Metra commuter rail station offers favorable conditions to boost density and retail, while providing more opportunities for walking and cycling. Leveraging Robbins Park, the strategy will spark growth near this transit node; bringing the village more of the amenities that offer a higher quality of life for working-class families. Affordable, innovative, and efficient housing is another major element of the strategic plan. The infrastructure in the transit-oriented development area at Robbins Metra station will be improved to connect existing buildings and new infill will lead to more.
The team engaged the mayor and residents through public meetings to build principles and explore ideas in collaboration with the community. As a result, this unique project of collaboration has attracted numerous public and private partners that are helping support the effort on behalf of the Village of Robbins through land acquisition, technical support, grant funding, and construction services. A bold and transformative initiative, this strategic plan could be used as a prototype to bring resiliency to the region one community at a time.
Project Team: Skidmore Owings & Merrill LLP (SOM); Living Habitats; Donohue & Associates; Neighborhood Capital Institute; Valerie S. Kretchmer Associates, Inc.; 2IM Group