SOM designs entrepreneurial and community hub in Chicago

Skidmore, Owings, & Merrill (SOM) and TnS Studio are leading the design of an entrepreneurial and community hub on Chicago’s South Side. Image © SOM
Skidmore, Owings, & Merrill (SOM) and TnS Studio are leading the design of an entrepreneurial and community hub on Chicago’s South Side.
Image © SOM

The City of Chicago has selected Englewood Connect, a project by designers Skidmore, Owings, & Merrill (SOM) and TnS Studio, lead developer McLaurin Development Partners, and Farpoint Development, to create an incubator for small businesses and entrepreneurs in the city’s Englewood neighborhood.

As part of Mayor Lori Lightfoot’s INVEST South/West initiative, Englewood Connect will expand on recent neighborhood investments to create a local commerce and culinary ecosystem, greater connectivity and pedestrian access, and flexible public spaces.

“We envision a dynamic mix of community spaces, accessible to all local residents and connected to the surrounding neighborhoods,” said Dawveed Scully, urban planning associate director at SOM. “With flexible spaces that can be used year-round, our plan creates an ecosystem that cultivates upward mobility anchored by entrepreneurialism.”

Englewood Connect is designed to elevate Englewood residents through a mixed-use, phased development strategy focused around a flexible public space called the Green Street Commons. The Englewood Living Room, a proposed pavilion with operable doors and windows, will be open year-round, allowing for markets, co-working spaces, exhibitions, and places for the community to gather and engage with one another.

Alongside new architecture, the plan restores and reinvigorates one of Englewood’s historic buildings. The landmark ‘castle’ Firehouse station, originally built in 1929 and now vacant, will be transformed into a multi-purpose venue tailored to the community’s needs. The adaptive-reuse project aims to protect the landmark structure for the next century. The space will connect nearby amenities to the site and create a platform for small business growth.

As a team, Englewood Connect holds a portfolio centered around community growth and enhancing underutilized spaces, with project work in Englewood ranging from architectural support with students and local construction opportunities to small business expansion.

The team will work with existing local businesses, community organizations, artists, and makers to develop a program informed by Englewood’s identity, and designed to serve the community’s changing needs. The team also includes industry experts with global expertise and local focus: Chef David Blackmon, dbHMS, Rubinos & Mesia Engineers, Omni Ecosystems, Engage Civil, Environmental Design International, Gwen Grossman Lighting Design, Bowa Construction, and Neal & Leroy.

“Our development approach is built with a laser focus on community vitality and identifying and helping local businesses grow while leveraging strategic partnerships with large institutions. INVEST South/West is the perfect toolbox to corral resources and implement a sustainable economic development approach across all of Chicago’s neighborhoods,” says Zeb McLaurin, president of McLaurin Development Partners.

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