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Prairie District Park at McCormick Square, Chicago
The 0.5 acre Prairie District Pocket Park provides much-needed play and recreational space for the neighborhood

Landscape Architecture by site design group, ltd (site)


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The half-acre Prairie District Pocket Park is one of the multiple redevelopment projects for the new "McCormick Square," located in Chicago between the South Loop, Chinatown, Prairie District, and Bronzeville neighborhoods, adjacent to the McCormick Place Convention Center and Lake Michigan. The park's curvilinear form includes a children's play space, a dog park and a connecting seating and gathering plaza. Masonry piers with limestone capstones, bases and ornamental metal panels provide the perimeter fencing along Prairie Avenue (left).


site design group, ltd (site) recently worked with the Metropolitan Pier and Exposition Authority (MPEA) on multiple redevelopment projects for the new "McCormick Square," which is located in Chicago between the South Loop, Chinatown, Prairie District, and Bronzeville neighborhoods, adjacent to the McCormick Place Convention Center.

As part of a new large scale development, which included the new Marriott Marquis Hotel and Wintrust Arena -- a 3,000 square-foot multipurpose event center that is now home to DePaul University and Chicago Sky basketball teams -- the 0.5 acre Prairie District Pocket Park provides much-needed play and recreational space for the neighborhood. Built on a former abandoned vacant lot, the park serves a diverse and enthusiastic community that was in desperate need of an active children's play area and a dog park. Completed in July 2017, the pocket park was designed in close collaboration with the Metropolitan Pier and Exposition Authority and local community groups.

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The children's play area features a custom splash pad with 6', 7' and 8' basalt columns that stream water downwards and limestone outcropping stones that spray water horizontally at the children's level when activated.


The park's curvilinear form divides the space into three primary sections; a children's play area, a dog-friendly area and a connecting seating and gathering plaza. The children's play area features a custom splash pad with 6', 7', and 8' basalt columns that create streams of water downwards and limestone outcropping stones that spray water horizontally at the children's level when activated. The main play area features rubber play mounds and innovative play equipment designed for ages 2 through 12. One play piece that attracts special attention is a tall tree house with a slide. It's a challenging feature for the younger set, while an igloo-like house fosters imaginative play for the little ones, ages two through five. With the tall play components and the upright stems of aspens throughout, the 'treehouse' nature of the play area provides a welcome contrast within this urban environment.

The separated dog-friendly area includes an artificial turf mound and concrete seat wall that makes for a durable, utilitarian play surface for dogs and seating area for owners. To assist with maintenance, the hardscape palette was simplified to concrete and canine artificial turf with an automatic wash-down system. There are two stainless steel dog water bowls to meet the hydrating needs of different sized canines. The custom dog fountain is on a timer to continuously fill and release so that it can be used as a fountain and 'bath' for smaller dogs. Interspersed throughout the space are rounded ceramic stones to engage the dogs for sitting, climbing and jumping.


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Connecting the children's play area and dog-friendly area is a plaza gathering space and seating area for visitors. The seating area is intended to offer a space of refuge for community residents and to accommodate people out and about from the adjacent hotel and event center. The unit paver plaza is permeable and serves as the main water storage for the site. Prior to construction of the park, environmental contamination was found, which necessitated the removal of 3 feet of soil in all the planting areas and a concrete capping layer beneath the play area and dog park.

In keeping with the historic context of the surrounding 'Prairie District' neighborhood, masonry piers with a limestone capstone and base and ornamental metal panels provide the perimeter fencing along Prairie Avenue. Marking the corner of the site at Prairie Avenue and 21st street a 4' x 4' x 5' entry pillar contains four limestone medallions, which were saved from demolition during the McCormick Place Expansion. The park is surrounded by lush, hardy, native and adapted plantings that buffer the sites and sounds of the adjacent street, provide year round interest, and low maintenance beauty. The striking curves of the paths provide a refreshing contrast to the urban grid particularly when viewed from the many adjacent high-rise buildings.

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The main play area incorporates rubber play mounds on the safety surfacing (OTS), and play equipment designed for ages 2 through 12 (Berliner: 'SpooRoo', 'Greenville', 'Big Ben'; Kompan: 'Corocord Reduced Loop', 'Swing Hammock' and 'Spinner Bowl.)


Team
Advance Consulting Group
Anne Kustner Lighting Design
Fountain Technologies
FRS Design Group
Goettsch Partners
Metropolitan Pier and Exposition Authority
Terra Engineering
Terry Guen Design Associates (original schematic design and community participation)
Products specified:
Anova Beacon Hill Bamboo Contour Bench & Park Lane Bench, Beacon Hill Bamboo tables and seats, Circle bike rack
Anova Latitude trash receptacle
Atelier Vierkant pebble
Berliner SpooRoo, Greenville, Big Ben
Hunter Irrigation
Kompan Corocord Reduced Loop, Swing Hammock, Spinner Bowl
Most Dependable Foundations drinking fountain
Terra Bound The Sentry Dog Waste Station, Leash Post
Urban Accessories Flat Rainbow tree grate

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Prior to construction of the park, environmental contamination was found, which necessitated the removal of 3 feet of soil in all the planting areas and a concrete capping layer beneath the play area and dog park. Plantings of Allium 'Summer Beauty', fountain and switch grass varieties and a Quaking aspen are in the foreground.


Materials list:
Endicott Pavers permeable clay brick pavers
Kafka Granite Chips
OTS Playground Safety Surfacing
Perfect Turf PetGrass

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Fenced off from the playground is a DG path and picnic area. Foreground: Agastache x 'Blue Fortune' and 'Drumstick' Allium plantings decorate the planter bed.


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To assist with maintenance, the hardscape for the dog area was simplified to concrete surfacing, concrete seat walls and a canine artificial turf mound with an automatic wash-down system. The custom dog fountain is on a timer to continuously fill and release. Interspersed throughout the space are rounded ceramic stones to engage the dogs for sitting, climbing and jumping.


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Completed in July 2017, the pocket park was designed in close collaboration with the Metropolitan Pier and Exposition Authority and the local community groups. The permeable unit pavers (Endicott) in the plaza pavers) serve as the main water storage for the site.




As seen in LASN magazine, March 2018.






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June 21, 2018, 8:42 pm PDT

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