Lake Forest: Old New Town Center

One of the first planned shopping centers in the United States connected to rail, not the automobile, Market Square created a new downtown to Lake Forest, Illinois in 1916. Interestingly, Market Square’s format matches that of the new urban centers and “lifestyle centers” being created today.  Shops and restaurants sit adjacent to public transit and surround a small park that is itself a community destination.  Architectural variety and an intimate streetscape made an appealing environment.  Office space and housing occupy upper floors and create round-the-clock activity.

Lake Forest’s Market Square foreshadowed today’s “new” development strategies in another way.  The masterplanned project came in a single stroke as an early phase of the “Lake Forest Improvement Plan” conceived by Arthur Aldis, a real estate promoter, who had an interest not only in the Square but also in leveraging development – and redevelopment — on surrounding properties.

One Response to Lake Forest: Old New Town Center

  1. Aaron says:

    My cousins live in Illinois and we’re going to try to visit Chicago next year – so I’m going to check it out. This site looks great Matt. On the subject of downtowns: I was just reading some Witold Rybcynski about Chicago, where the invention of concrete and steel construction suddenly allowed VERY dense downtowns, often at the exclusion of housing and livability, and over the long term may have contributed to their decline.

    Taecker: We’ll take up the question of density and livability in future posts. Chicago has one of the best big city downtown’s and the Gold Coast is extremely dense and has a great mix of housing and retail. That said, density can carry attributes that diminish livability — and that’s where careful planning and design come in. Thanks for the comment.

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