Normal Illinois Uptown


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Concept

The Uptown section of Normal, Illinois illustrates a number of important urban design practices, including urban center revitalization, efficient transportation, and sustainable design.


History

Normal is a town north of Bloomington, Illinois, on the way to Chicago. The town was founded as North Bloomington in 1854. The name [4][5]  was changed to Normal in 1865, after the Illinois State Normal University located there. The term normal was often used to designate teacher-training institutions. This school was later renamed Illinois State University after becoming a general university. Its main campus continues to be at Normal.


During the 1990's the town of about 54,000 was facing some problems, common to many cities. Suburban malls were drawing shopping away from the downtown area. The downtown area began to decay as a result of poor maintenance.




Photo ©  Hoerr Schaudt Architects, Normal Illinois Uptown

Iin 1999, the town hired Farr Associates of Chicago to plan for a revitalization, which began in 2001. The elements of the plan are outlined in the following sections. In 2007 the downtown area was renamed "Uptown Normal."


Uptown Circle

An oddly shaped intersection at  the center of downtown was redesigned into a roundabout traffic circle. It provides a calming effect and the traffic in a single direction increases safety.  Inside the circle is a small plaza or park used for community activities. It has ample seating facilities and water areas.



Photo ©  Hoerr Schaudt Architects, Normal Circle

Multimodal Station

Normal is fortunate to be on a major Amtrak train line between Chicago and St. Louis. Construction of a new multimodal Uptown station was began in 2010 with a grant from the Federal TIGER program. The TIGER (Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery) program was created to  invest in road, rail, transit and port projects that promise to achieve critical national infrastructure objectives, making communities more livable and sustainable.

 

The station brings together Amtrak trains, intercity and local bus lines, bicycles, and pedestrians. It also serves as a hub for a regional bus transit system, called Connect Transit, that operates 11 routes. Amtrak boardings in Normal have been rising, and ridership should grow further as track improvements are implemented on the Chicago to St. Louis line. The station serves five trains daily in each direction between St. Louis and Chicago. It is the second busiest Amtrak station in the state of Illinois after Chicago, serving nearly a quarter million passengers per year. Train travel Normal takes two and a half hours  from either St. Louis or Chicago.



Photo ©  Ratio Architects, Normal Multimodal Station

Cultural Centers

The Childrenís Discovery Museum and the Illinois State University University Art Gallery are located around the Uptown Circle. The Children's Discovery Museum provides hands-on exhibits, classes and programs for children. It has three floors of exhibits designed for kids of any age.


Photo ©  Wikipedia: Normal Museum,
Author: Ecfoxen

Photo ©  Illinois State University,
Art Gallery

Parking and Bicycling Support

On-street and parking structures are available in the Uptown area. Free parking is provided for Amtrak and bus patrons. Reasonable rates are provided for others, including the first hour being free.


The Bloomington-Normal Constitution Trail is a 24-mile (39 km) walking and cycling trail. The north-south segment of the trail follows the abandoned Illinois Central Gulf (ICG) railroad, and it can be accessed from the Normal Uptown station. Sheltered bicycle parking is available next to the Connect Transit stop.


Environmental Design

The Uptown design followed the US Green Building Councilís Leadership in Energy & Environmental Design (LEED) standards, which include high efficiency air conditioning and use of natural lighting. A key element of the Uptown design is a sustainable water management system that captures, cleanses and recycles sormwater. Small plant bogs built around the circle help provide some filtration of the warter. Runoff is collected from several streets adjoining the Circle, stored in an  underground cistern, and used for irrigation of plants in the area. Trees within the Circle park and along surrounding blocks are planted into "Silva Cell" containers. These partly undergound container structures help capture water and provide uncompacted soil for healthier trees.


Disclaimer

This website is not a professional guide, but an editing of existing referenced material for educational purposes. The website author assumes no responsibility for any problems resulting from using the material presented in this website.


Sources:

Deeproot: Uptown Circle

Hoerr Schaudt Architects: Uptown Normal

Idea Scale: Uptown Normal Circle

Uptown Normal

Wikipedia: Normal, Illinois