The revitalization and rebirth of N. 76th Street and Brown Deer Road in Granville

The site currently consists primarily of just three adjacent retail developments with lots (literally) of surface parking and largely empty one-story buildings. However, the shape of the site compares to traditional urban areas two blocks deep by about six blocks long, or as many twelve city blocks, depending on the size and orientation of the blocks. The architects explored two main strategies on the site: adaptive reuse and reconfiguration of the retail buildings and parking lots at the west, and, to the east, establishing a pedestrian framework of streets, sidewalks and public spaces with blocks that can be built out in a variety of ways. Though the west approach is relatively low-intensity, and the east/center portion allows for greater density, both seek a greener environment with better human scale and an inviting mix of uses that can serve the wider community.

Creative subtraction: On the west end of the site the architects explored subtracting portions of the strip center and former Target to improve scale and access to daylight in the buildings. The new gaps between buildings provide convenient but smaller scaled parking lots. This allows a large recreation field for community use to provide a green focus to the outdoor space. The retained building elements can be used for a variety of complementary uses such as clinics, physical therapy, day care, recreation, and offices. (The existing restaurant could remain.)

Walk-able streets around central community spaces: The east and center portion of the site is reorganized with a network of streets that focus on a central public plaza / green. The former Kohl’s grocery store, with its iconic clear-span arched roof, will be retained and remodeled as a community center that anchors the south side of this central green. To the south of the building an amphitheater built into the hillside extends the zone of public activity. The curved north side of the central green is shaped by south-facing mixed-use buildings with restaurants, coffee shops and the like on the ground floor and apartments above. Generous sidewalks allow for patio seating in warmer weather, and on-street and angled spaces provide some visible—but not dominant–parking.

The pragmatic decisions to use existing access points for streets and to use the former Kohl’s building as a focus lead to aesthetic benefits. The angled and curved main streets leading to and around the central green slow traffic and provide visual interest and human scale through inflected views and changes of direction. The cross-streets and short secondary streets to the south provide quieter residential locations, and the whole system provides a variety of networked routes.

Build-out at varying scales: The street pattern results in pedestrian-scaled blocks that can be developed in a variety of ways. The edge between the new developments and the existing outlots on Brown Deer Road is treated as a mid-block condition. Ideally, those outlots will eventually be redeveloped with larger scale street-defining buildings, with parking structured or behind in mid-block. We picture the next buildings south (on the current parking lots) as three to four-story, multi-family buildings, though they could be lower height or density. The blocks farthest south could continue this pattern, or, as shown, transition to smaller scale buildings such as townhouses. One experimental possibility we illustrate includes 6-unit multi-family buildings in which each unit has its own yard or roof garden and multiple orientations. We also suggest the possibility of single-family town houses built into the hillside with elevated side-yard terraces.

Multi-use pedestrian network and a green-way: In addition to the tree-lined neighborhood streets and sidewalks, we also propose walkways within an enhanced green way. Elements include the recreational field, a landscaped divided roadway on the west, and the south hillside, with a path that connects the new town center and amphitheater to neighborhood atop the hill. Other green zones such as the power easement and the slope down from the west plateau will be enhanced, with the potential for a future connection across Brown Deer Road that could link to the natural areas just a short distance to the northwest.