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The Elements Group Has Big Plans for a Small Park in Lakeview

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Last week, Uptown Update announced that a groundbreaking ceremony is scheduled for Thursday for the first phase of Unity Green at Gill Park. We hadn't heard much about the project before that announcement, so on Thursday we got in touch with Alan Bell, founder and president of the The Elements Group, which is spearheading it. Bell has big plans for the small park at the corner of Sheridan and Broadway in Lakeview, and he's bringing in a couple of architectural heavyweights to design the space: Studio Gang Architects and Site Design Group. This week's groundbreaking is for a children's play area in the park. Studio Gang and Site Design are involved in the playground design, according Bell. "We think it's going to be one of the most exciting play areas in the country," he says.

So far, only these three small renderings have been released, offering little insight into the overall park plan, but Bell says the Studio Gang renderings will be revealed at a ribbon-cutting ceremony for the playground in late July. Next spring, Bell plans to break ground on what he calls the "vertical green hub," a mult-tiered green space that will include a "sculptural green wall surrounding the perimeter of the park," (pictured behind the soccer field) as well as unique "activity hubs," according to The Elements Group website. The park will also feature a three stone sculptures by artist Roman Villarreal that will display the words "Diversity," "Unity" and "Community" in braille and sign language.

Bell didn't go into too much detail about the design when we spoke with him, but he was eager to talk about the concept. Bell says the community immediately surrounding Gill Park is extremely diverse, and he'd like to create a space that will bring all the different socioeconomic groups together. "When you enter into the park space it's not very inviting, because you have this hardscape that's hitting you right in the face," he explains. "The idea was to try to create a green element that banded the hardscape and pulled the various groups together." Part of the reason he isn't releasing renderings yet is because he wants to engage the community in the design before moving forward. Bell says the Park District and local aldermen are on-board with the project.

Gill Park isn't the only project The Elements Group is working on. Bell is working with Adrian Smith + Gordon Gill and Krueck + Sexton to construct a couple of mobile environmental learning centers that will be deployed around the city. "The idea is to work with the park district and use world-class architecture to raise awareness and engage as many people as possible with nature," explains Bell. The Elements Group also has plans to expand the fieldhouse and Lake Shore Park in Streeterville.
· Unity Green At Gill Park Groundbreaking [Uptown Update]
· Official website: The Elements Group [The Elements Group]