POST-INDUSTRIAL URBAN LABORATORY is an interdisciplinary project created for DESIGN WORKSHOP STUDIO 1 as part of a University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign Fall 2015 course taught by Amita Sinha, Sara Bartumeus Ferré and Rob Olshansky. This was a group project with Kristy Raasch (MLA), Atyeh Ashtari (MLA), Robert Prochaska (M.Arch) and Nick Frey (M.Arch). 

This project re-envisions Danville, IL as a high quality of life city that attracts and retains both residents and businesses. Natural resources and manufacturing played a large role in the history of Danville, though as the glory industry once brought to the area has faded, relics of an exploited landscape are left behind. From a peak population of 42,500 people in 1970 to a slowly declining present population of 32,000 today, with higher vacancy and unemployment rates when compared to the rest of the state of Illinois, Danville serves as a microcosm to other declining, post-industrial Rustbelt cities. With the University of Illinois in such close proximity, we thought Danville would be a perfect post-industrial urban laboratory, where students can form multidisciplinary teams to gain practical experience and test ideas on how to help transform RustBelt cities that parallel the situation found within Danville. Streetscaping elements installed downtown include bike lanes and bioswales, managing stormwater while offering a contemporary aesthetic. By developing a landscape that brings people into the city, a developer will see value in rehabilitating these buildings, understanding the asset that they bring to the city of Danville. A few blocks east of Vermilion, there are gorgeous, mostly abandoned warehouses that would also serve as wonderful spaces for student housing and studio space.  

Along Main Street, we’ve installed a median and traffic calming measures, such as pedestrian lights, which help to lessen the strong barrier that Main Street currently has on downtown, cutting it off from the southside of the Street, let alone the river. We used trees to increase density, reclaiming part of the parking lot, and installing an allee of trees.  A large public open space is created, accommodating various event like annual holiday markets and weekly farmers markets, as well as featuring benches and movable furniture to appeal to downtown office workers. Collaborating with architecture students led to the designing of an urban agricultural garden and a food hall / market, promoting access to higher quality food while having an activity that brings the people of Danville together.

Trails guide users down to a new riverfront park, where a multi-use trail begins that connects users to Kickapoo State Park via an abandoned rail line. A bridge is installed, built out of the existing dam structures to go to a large deck area along the river, or cross into southern part, where dirt paths bring users through various natural typologies. The southern part of the riverfront park features a restored mine that allows human beings to experience the marvelous mining heritage of the Danville region.