Uptown Normal Redevelopment – 2020 ULI Urban Open Space Awards Finalist

Four access points connect the circle to the adjacent streets and the plaza outside of Uptown Station, making the Circle a new civic heart of the community and providing a public green with a strong sense of place. Photo Credit: Scott Shigley

Location: Normal, Illinois, United States
Owner: Town of Normal, Illinois
Designers: Hoerr Schaudt Landscape Architects
Additional Team Members: Farnsworth Group; Clark Dietz; CMS Collaborative; Hey & Associates; James Urban; Charter Sills; Jeffery L. Bruce; Landtech; Farr Associates
Site Size: 4.87 acres (total project area); 0.4 acres (Uptown Circle)
Number of People Served (within a half-mile): 10,000
Opened: June 30, 2010
Website: https://www.uptownnormal.com/

 

 

 

 

A ring of 12 plane trees provide both shade and definition to the space, making it usable in all seasons. Benches, constructed with sustainably-harvested ipe wood, foster both respite and interaction. Photo Credit: Scott Shigley
The water course within The Circle echoes the Midwestern creek bed that once flowed through the space. Its audible flow and its varied depths and access points encourage imagination and exploration, especially for children. Photo Credit: Scott Shigley

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Following the adoption of a long-range, environmentally focused, downtown master plan for the Town of Normal, Illinois, Hoerr Schaudt was hired to serve as lead designer for public realm improvements across Normal’s central business district. The 5-acre project area was significant for numerous reasons: an abandoned railway bifurcated the historic downtown core and impeded retail traffic; the municipality wanted to attract private investment to increase density near an adjacent transit station; the town lacked any significant public space; and Normal wanted to leverage infrastructure improvements (transportation and stormwater) in reconceiving its historic corridor. The result was The Circle, a signature civic green space whose verdancy radiates into connecting streetscapes. Once-barren corridors are now lined with 104 mature caliper trees with vivid understory plantings that collect, treat, and recharge groundwater. A modular, suspended pavement system works in tandem with The Circle to mitigate 1.4 million gallons of stormwater annually. Reclaimed and treated stormwater is a central design element that anchors an event lawn now used year-round for festivals, parades, and caroling. The Circle created a galvanizing brand identity for Uptown Normal, drawing community and economic interest: between 2009 and 2015, retail sales increased by 46% with property values increasing by 205%. The redevelopment demonstrates how smart public space design can meet multiple municipal goals and revitalize a central business district.

The Circle serves as the town’s ‘front yard’ and anchors a new civic core around which is anchored by a new Town Hall, transit center, and children’s museum. Photo Credit: Scott Shigley
The ADA accessible circle utilizes flat, at grade bridges to cross the water feature and connect the outer promenade to the central lawn. The “reverse-shingle” fountain floor generates pleasant water sounds that mitigate traffic noise within the park. Photo Credit: Scott Shigley

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