The Hummingbird Plan
Plunkett Raysich Architects began the competition by analyzing the five “core values” we were asked to explore, and by looking at the site characteristics. We found that the site had many positive aspects, including being located along two major public transportation routes and adjacent to a thriving, multi-generational residential community. The site was also in close proximity to many schools and youth centers. But in further analyzing the larger context, we saw that other amenities that support a community, such as day care centers, restaurants, pharmacies and grocery stores were widely scattered, and not as plentiful. So we developed “The Hummingbird Plan”.
The ingredients of the plan include:
• Provide the services that the existing community needs and wants.
• Create a variety of housing that would appeal to empty nesters or seniors with grand children living with them.
• The community and the residents of the block will draw together naturally, like hummingbirds to a flower
The Hummingbird Plan proposes creating the community hub that currently is lacking, much the way it was until the 1940s, when the center of the African American community was located on Walnut Street in historic “Bronzeville.”
Step one of The Hummingbird Plan was to provide the services the existing neighborhood was lacking. These services include a child daycare, clinic/pharmacy, beauty salon/barber shop, outpatient therapy center, home health/personal service agency, police substation café, community meeting room, fitness center, and a grocery store. Step two was to provide housing for elderly people of all incomes and needs, from the single person of minimal means, to the extended family with children and grandchildren living with them. A diversity in unit sizes is intended to allow all members of the neighborhood to live on this campus. The housing options may be rental, condominiums or co-housing.
The next step in The Hummingbird Plan is to link all of the housing and services on the block together with a daylit corridor so that residents can get to anywhere on the block in any weather. When the residents are too frail to go to the services, the services can come to them via this “backstage pass,” allowing everyone to age gracefully in one place – their “home.” In order to ensure that the youngest members of the community would also be attracted naturally to the site to further foster intergenerational exchanges, an urban farming outpost with greenhouses and outdoor plots was added to the green space. An outdoor amphitheater was also created for community events.
In an effort to foster community links, Plunkett Raysich Architects ensured that public pedestrian access to the site was maintained from all directions. ‘Defensible’ private yards that would be created using low fencing and landscape features. This also delineates the private yard from the public park area. To help nurture informal community support, Plunkett Raysich Architects’ proposal offers the following characteristics:
• Residents are close to their families and friends.
• Homes have views of the streets and park.
• Homes have easy access to and from the streets.
• On site services offer interaction and job opportunities.
• Units are able to accommodate children.
Each unit would have two bedrooms, accessible shower, laundry and kitchen facilities. All are designed for accessibility and adaptability. The “Milwaukee Bungalow” building consists of three levels of apartments on the Galena Street side, and two-story townhouses on the courtyard side. The building form is meant to resemble the typical urban housing found nearby and pictured above. The bungalow building entrance is visitable and fully accessible. The linking corridor serves as a corridor to foster friendships while also allowing services to be provided to residents as they age in place. The typical apartment consists of two bedrooms and accessible kitchen, laundry and bathing facilities.
The services offered in the first level of the “Wellness Building” were chosen to appeal to both the residents of the block and the local community, thus fostering community interaction. Private housing units were placed on the floors above this more public level. The units in the Wellness Building were designed to be adaptable from a Studio to a Two-Bedroom Apartment using interconnecting doors as found in adjoining hotel rooms. When one door is opened, the Studio can become a One-Bedroom Apartment. And by opening another door, the One-Bedroom becomes a Two-Bedroom Apartment. A Skilled Nursing Facility could also be created by using each unit as a traditional SNF patient room, adding nurses stations to each floor, and utilizing the clinic facilities and staff on the first floor.
The views from the busy roads surrounding the site present the image of traditional, medium density, low-rise urban housing, with commercial amenities for all at the ground floors of three of the buildings. One would never know that this complex was actually meant to serve our older population, with informal support from the community surrounding it. From the quieter courtyard side of the complex, one sees a peaceful urban park where school children, residents and community members of all ages can volunteer at the urban farming facilities, or take in an evening jazz concert in the amphitheater. Visit the 6th Street Market to buy your organically grown produce or look up to the porches of Grandma’s House, and you’ll see happy seniors who have chosen this place to LIVE the rest of their lives, in the community of their youth, in places they can truly call “home.”