ROGERS PARK — Tom Brock's architecture students dreamed big when coming up with creative designs for a new development at the long-vacant former Lerner Newspaper site on Howard Street.
For months, his graduate class at the Illinois Institute of Technology has been designing a building for the city-owned lot at 7533 N. Ashland Ave., which has sat empty for years as tumultuous ownership and environmental contamination marred the property.
The goal was to create something that would not only boost the economy on the North Side, but also spark "a discussion" about the future of Rogers Park, Brock said.
"The students have been invited to be provocative in their proposals," Brock said. "The point is to not get everyone to agree on a design."
All six of the designs feature a large building. One shows a six-story building facing Howard with a rooftop park. Farther down Ashland, another section of the building rises nearly 20 stories.
But the students were tasked with more than just creating renderings.
Students Kaitlin Beckham, Mark Rustin and Jennifer Robinson designed a different building that incorporates a public plaza, art galleries and artist workshops.
"The mentality our group has taken was we really want to develop the site that gives back to the people in the area," Beckham said.
Other designs incorporated elements such as an urban farm and micro-apartments.
Brock said "none of the designs would ever be built," but Beckham was still holding out hope as the city prepared to shop the lot to developers.
For a developer to use their plans, or perhaps elements of their plans, would be a "dream" come true, Beckham said.
The Peterson Garden Project will use the lot over the summer for urban gardens and other community programming.