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Uplift Plaza Project In Uptown Will Make 'Cool' Hangout For School's Teens

By Josh McGhee | October 30, 2017 9:56am
 The Uplift Plaza in Uptown will not only fix storm water problems in the area when completed, it will serve as a
The Uplift Plaza in Uptown will not only fix storm water problems in the area when completed, it will serve as a "cool" hangout space for the school's teens. 
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Site Design

UPTOWN — The Uplift Plaza in Uptown will not only fix stormwater problems in the area when completed, it will serve as a "cool" hangout space for the school's teens. 

With places to sit, trees for shade, and plants that attract butterflies, the plaza will be a must stop along the Leland Greenway, which will run between the school buildings of Uplift High School, 900 W. Wilson Ave. in Uptown. 

Currently, the space is "pretty unusual," used as an area to shuffle kids between buildings and sometimes as a parking lot, said senior landscape designer Kris Sorich of the Chicago Department of Transportation. 

The goal of the ambitious plan is to make the area "completely accessible and retain as much stormwater as possible," Sorich said. "It's basically a 15,000 square foot bowl with a drain in the middle and it's not functioning well."

But the project will also add cultural, social and educational value to the public walkway that runs through the neighborhood high school, said project designer Lara Rivera of Site Design. 

All of the storm water will be forced to the chadar, a carved slope for a water channel, creating a waterfall like visual.

"It makes the stormwater drainage visible to make it educational," said Rivera, adding "it will slow [the water] down and make a sound."

The plaza will also incorporate vertical art chosen by the school and "fun furnishings to make it a cool place to hang out for young folks," Rivera said. 

It will also have planters with "as many species as possible" that "birds and butterflies make their home as they travel." It will also feature several trees for shade, she said.

The Uplift Plaza project is funded with money from the 46th Ward and an Environmental Protection Agency grant. 

Rivera and Sorich discussed the project during the fifth installment of the Institute of Cultural Affairs, environmental educational series "Out and About Uptown's Coast" last week. About 20 residents attended the meeting at 4750 N. Sheridan Road, which also included a tour of the Leland Greenway ending at the construction site of the Uptown Plaza.

The greenway, which has been in the works for four years, is designed to make Leland Avenue more bike-friendly, according to Ald. James Cappleman (46th).

Construction began on the project, which will run along Leland Avenue from Clark Street to Clarendon Avenue and connects Chase Park, Uplift High School, the Lakefront Trail and Weiss Hospital, in September. Plans call for the 1-mile stretch to include green infrastructure, chicanes, stormwater bumpouts, sharrows and signs.

Where Leland Avenue turns into Arai Campus Park the greenway will turn south through an alley on the west side of the park to the public walkway between the school buildings of the high school at 900 W. Wilson Ave.

With the exception of the Uplift Plaza, the project should be completed by winter, Cappleman said.

Derek Davis, owner of Seeds of Joy Daycare at 850 W. Eastwood Ave., has known that area for years as a former Arai Middle School student. Arai eventually became Uplift High School.

"I walked by the space for years and never thought it could look like this," Davis said at the meeting.

Bike lanes should be poured at the site next week and the plaza should be completed by June 2018, Sorich said.

The Uplift Plaza project will transform an area between buildings at Uplift High School. DNAinfo/Josh McGhee]

The Uplift Plaza project will transform an area between buildings at Uplift High School. DNAinfo/Josh McGhee]

[Courtesy of Site Design]