A former discount store along Archer Avenue in the Brighton Park community will soon be transformed into a new early childhood center. The project comes from the Gads Hill Center, a non-profit youth education organization which focuses on South Side neighborhoods. JGMA, a firm that is known for its work in education, has been tapped to help renovate and reshape the building. And not unlike many of its other projects, the group has proposed a design that features colorful and playful interiors.
Juan Moreno, JGMA president and 2016 Curbed Groundbreaker, tells us that his firm has been working with Gads Hill to find the right space for nearly five years. Ultimately, Gads Hill and JGMA settled on the building at 4255 S. Archer Avenue for its location and good bones.
“Part of the investigation was how to maintain some of the human scale retail on Archer and how to make the language of the building respect the language of the past,” Moreno tells us. “What do you do with this building that has been so forgotten?”
Moreno says that the development team met with preservation experts in the city’s Department of Planning and Development to discuss the adaptive reuse of the building. But ultimately, the project serves children and Moreno says that it’s also important to consider the design and build-out “from the scale of a child.”
One major change will be the building’s exterior and how it interacts with neighboring structures along Archer Avenue. The existing building appears to have been expanded at a later point and its exterior features inconsistent building materials, ornamentation, and roof lines. The proposed design from JGMA will completely reshape and unify the building’s exterior while also adding some new architectural elements.
The firm suggests that the colorful boxed windows will “create an exterior expression of the carefree activities happening inside.” Meanwhile, a rear corner of the building along 43rd Street will be removed to create an outdoor playground and recreation space.
The new project is certainly not JGMA’s first in education, and it’s not even the only project the group is working on in the Brighton Park neighborhood. The group has also designed an upcoming three-story medical facility for the southwest corner of California Avenue and 47th Street. But Moreno tells us that Brighton Park residents can expect to see the new Gads Hill expansion moving forward soon. The development team plans to break ground on the new youth center this summer.