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180 Varick Street, Suite 1220
New York, NY, 10014


[Archive] South Side Stories


The South Side of Chicago is one of the city’s most dynamic areas filled with both historical and cultural significance giving a true sense of place to its residents. However, in recent history, the South Side has been underserved and denied resources by those in power. The South Side of Chicago now finds itself in a crucial moment as the chosen site for the Obama Presidential Library. With an investment of $500 million, the Library brings with it an opportunity to bring about social, economic, and political changes that can potentially revive the South Side. As a plan begins to develop for the Library, the South Side–and its needs and desires–must be front and center.

Terreform is developing a proposal that uses the Obama Library as a catalyst for urban development of the South Side and Chicago as a whole. Although prompted by the derisory and enormously uneven development of this vast track of the city, and by the troubles endured by many of its communities of color, we are approaching this project with optimism. Our goal is to produce a series of proposals–including physical plans–that can channel the great history, energy, and creativity of these communities and leverage the huge impetus that the arrival of the Obama library will bring, not simply to its immediate surroundings but to a territory stretching from Bronzeville to Calumet.  We intend to collaborate and work with any organization that looks forward to mobilizing positive changes on the South Side, in particular: the citizens, the city, the community activists, the University of Chicago, and the Obama Foundation.  The project will center itself on the belief that everyone should have access to a parity of rights and expression in developing their communities.  A successful plan is one that is premised on the idea of a common “right to the city”, that addresses not only the needs of the community, but also, its desires. 

Our analysis will include categories that are typically viewed as negative, as untapped opportunities–vacant lots and abandoned buildings–as spaces for community developed assets which would disaggregate resources, such as academic, cultural, social, and food systems, in so doing connecting existing systems in an equitable way. Furthermore, high percentages of unemployment on the South Side means that there is a critical number of individuals who can be mobilized to reinvigorate their communities. Terreform’s design and research strategies will provide acute spatial interventions that address the contemporary issues which are prevalent on the South Side like crime, pollution, access to education, nutrition, transportation and health services.