Magazine

Small Community, Big Parking Ideas

Nichole Robinson

Increased commercial development in the central business district of the suburban-Chicago community of La Grange, IL, created a demand for additional convenient parking. Village officials saw this as an opportunity not only to add parking, but also to continue investing in the revitalization of their downtown.
The Loebl Schlossman & Hackl / Graef Anhalt Schloemer / Hitchcock Design Group project team carefully reviewed potential project sites, prepared an analysis, developed graphic representations, and coordinated a series of committee meetings including local residents and businesses to obtain their input.
The study and discussions raised specific questions and concerns about the integration of the site and its surrounding properties. Vehicle and pedestrian flow was an important part of the design consideration, as much as the aesthetics and massing of the facility.
Design considerations included the strategic location of the parking deck’s stair towers leading to nearby pedestrian destinations. Vehicle traffic patterns were evaluated in terms of La Grange Road traffic load and speed; primary and secondary access to the parking deck to alleviate congestion within the structure during peak use times; and convenience for residential users.
A village-owned parcel of property immediately behind Village Hall was selected as the best site for a new parking facility, and the design team also identified a parcel immediately south of Village Hall as an opportunity to create a new public plaza. The plaza would create a sense of place and valuable community gathering space, as well as tying the parking structure to the many amenities on the village’s “main street.”
In early design meetings with village officials, it was evident that design sensitivity for the surrounding community needed to be balanced with fiscal responsibility in funding the project. For this reason, masonry-embedded precast concrete panels were selected for the parking structure. Cost savings would be incurred through creating a masonry feel to the structure through economical fabrication of the panels offsite in a controlled environment.
This satisfied the concerns of the community and a very vocal group of citizens who were worried about how a parking structure would impact the quality of life in their neighborhood. The design team drew up plans for the 119,000-square-foot, 365-space structure.
Neighborhood Issues / Aesthetics
The parking structure is surrounded by residential developments on three sides. Not all of these residents were in favor of the proposed parking deck. For this reason, the design team recognized that the issue of aesthetics with relationship to the neighborhood was extremely important. Through a combination of scale, massing, landscaping and materials, the design of the parking deck fits its environment.
To address the residents’ concerns about a parking structure being built immediately across the street from their homes, the design reinforces the neighborhood’s character through the use of residential-scale fenestration and detailing. The embedded brick and cast-stone façade blends with the materials of surrounding residences. The structure is only three stories high, in keeping with adjacent buildings.
Another design feature that keeps the structure at a residential scale is the offset bays, which visually break up the long façades into a series of smaller masses and create a sense of rhythm that a pedestrian experiences while walking past the site. The overall effect is that the east façade of the garage resembles a series of townhomes.
Connections to the Community
The west façade, which faces the new public plaza, has a much different feel. Simple vertical precast panels are connected to a trellis system that will change with the colors of the season. An even simpler treatment was given to those sections of the west façade that are blocked from view by Village Hall and an existing commercial building.
Rather than creating a strong façade for the parking structure, the design team focused on creating a beautiful landscaped plaza, including a fountain, with the parking structure creating a backdrop. This public space represents village officials’ continued investment in making their downtown a place of community pride that draws residents, businesses and visitors. A two-story entrance lobby to the parking structure features a clock tower and complements Village Hall in detail and building materials .
The design team preserved a pedestrian link through the parking structure so that it does not segregate the residential community from the business district. An entrance at the east side of the parking deck provides direct access to the stair and elevator core. Special attention was given to the interior and exterior lighting of the structure to maximize safety and limit the impact on the surrounding residential properties. The garage also features a digital video surveillance system with emergency panic stations.
The garage and plaza were constructed according to a plan that allowed adjacent businesses to remain open, including a weekly farmers market.
La Grange officials noted at a ribbon-cutting ceremony that “the quality and architectural features of this garage have set a new standard for parking garages.” The parking facility has now been open for two years, and the plaza is filled with people day and night.
Robert Pilipiszyn, Village Manager, commented: “You don’t often see spaces like this in the suburbs. This pocket park has been embraced by the village and is a legacy for future generations.”
The project is proving successful because the village was able to quickly, efficiently and elegantly provide an increase in the parking capacity of the central business district while respecting the privacy and aesthetics of an established residential neighborhood nearby.

Project Team
Owner: Village of La Grange, IL
Architect: Loebl Schlossman & Hackl, Chicago
Engineer: Graef Anhalt Schloemer & Associates, Milwaukee
Landscape Architect: Hitchcock Design Group, Naperville, IL
General Contractor: Paul H. Schwendener Inc., Westmont, IL

Nichole Robinson is Marketing Coordinator for Loebl Schlossman & Hackl. She can be reached at nrobinson@lsh.com.

Article Abstract from February, 2008




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