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Historic Broadway Armory Getting Student-Designed Makeover

By Linze Rice | May 11, 2017 5:43am
 A design by Columbia College student Emily Skuldarek that shows her vision for a teen-centered area in the Broadway Armory.
A design by Columbia College student Emily Skuldarek that shows her vision for a teen-centered area in the Broadway Armory.
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Design by Emily Skuldarek

EDGEWATER — The Chicago Park District's largest and most grandiose indoor recreational facility, the Broadway Armory, is gearing up for a partial transformation into a modernized student-designed teen hub. 

Thirteen art and design students from Columbia College's Interior Architecture Civic Engagement Studio class have been working this semester to tackle each step of the design process — focus groups, marketing, adapting, drawing and more — to come up with ideas that reimagine three currently underutilized parts of the building as an updated center for teenagers and others in the neighborhood.

From 10 a.m.-2 p.m. Saturday, community members can get a firsthand look at 10 designs submitted by the class during an exhibition in the ballroom of the armory, 5917 N. Broadway.

Sandwiched between Swift Elementary School and Senn High School (which also shares a campus with Rickover Military Academy), the massive armory boasts five gymnasiums, 13 rooms, a ballroom, community kitchen and more, yet teens were "underrepresented" within the building, said René King, the acting art director in Columbia's design department who is co-teaching the course.

"Teens currently have very limited options in the community with regular and reliable programming," said Taylor Heideman, Ald. Harry Osterman's (48th) youth services coordinator. "We want to create a safe space that youth know they can go to, be welcomed as teens being teens, and explore new interests that can lead to new opportunities in their future."

The overhaul will roll out in phases.

First, an empty room at the end of a gym is slated to become a multi-purpose room for teens to hang out and feel safe, Heideman said. 

That area is already being used by youths involved in programs through the park district, but its renovation will focus more on becoming a place for teenagers to hang out, study, chat and more.

The next phase will look at creating a media hub for teens within the armory, one that allows them "to explore their talents," according to the alderman's office.

A sound studio, computer lab and more could become part of the building.

Student renderings depict sleek, modern rooms equipped with technology that encourages users to make and interact with media, music, art, science, 3-D design and more — opening new doors to resources and skills for neighborhood youths.

Over the course of the semester, students visited other youth and teen centers, talked with users of the armory, consulted a spectrum of neighborhood groups, and worked with Osterman's office and the Chicago Park District to draw inspiration and research for their visions.

On Saturday, Edgewater residents will have the chance to see the proposals and weigh in on them. 

"We are very excited to share the students proposals with the Edgewater community," King said.

A proposal for the armory by Margaret Plass and Morgan Turner. [Margaret Plass and Morgan Turner]