Uptown Community Center

Why a Community Center?

Community Centers are essential to communities. To bring people together to develop understanding and to celebrate the local area:

Here is an article about the importance of community centers, please read.

I realized that I don’t go to the community center near me often, but even more alarming is that I don’t know where it is located. A place called the Boys and Girls club acted as a community center for me when I was younger because it allowed me to have a place to go after school to get work done or meet new people from around the neighborhood. Unfortunately, the club was not free. An ideal community center, in my opinion, has all the things of a Boys and Girls Club (snacks, computer area, game room, a place to study) but is free so everyone in the community, specifically the kids, can enjoy. This conclusion was the final idea but what sparked the idea was looking at a building, which you can view below, in my neighborhood. From the entire time I have been visiting this building, it has always looked the same. It houses many churches and businesses, yet the quality of the structure is poor. I only wanted to remodel the building but realized I could expand the purpose of the building in addition. Instead of completely changing the building I made part of it a mini community center because the current building houses a lot of businesses so I would like a majority of them to still have a place to stay.

Project Statement

This is the current state of the building I am remodeling:

The purpose of this catalyst project is to create a space for the community (Uptown) to come together that is located in the approximate center of the community. Though the rooms on the third floor and second floor will be available for rent for small businesses and churches, the first floor will be mainly dedicated to kids in the community, specifically 6-15 year olds. The building in located in such a way that it is basically at the center of the community. I want to manipulate the current shape of the building so it’s more interesting to outside viewers and will, therefore, attract kids inside. From looking at other community centers, I’ve seen that they use windows a lot in design so I intend to also use a lot of windows to allow light to come in. The building should be made of natural materials, such as wood, but also materials that will be safe for kids to be around. Regarding the inside, kids tend to react more positively to bright colors so I would like the walls to be a bright color like blue, purple, or red. While one room should be dedicated to studying, the other rooms will be dedicated to activities kids can do when finished with homework or when bored. There could be board games, card games, physical games like Shark and Minos or Four Corners. We could also maybe play with the fact that a lot of people in the neighborhood are immigrants. We could celebrate those different cultures and take design and art influences from different places. The overall goal of the community center is to provide a safe space for kids and potential rooms for small businesses and churches.

Case Studies

Mount Hope Community Center-Bronx, New York (left)
I am using this specific community center because it has the ideas that I came up with for my project. It has an interesting shape, not the usual box-shape of a community center. It has lot of windows, which I would like my building to have to brighten the rooms up for kids. The center is located in a cityscape, like mine will be, so it gives me idea on how to integrate the center into the street without completely disrupting the flow. The building uses bricks, which I will also be using for the purpose of blending in with surrounding buildings. There isn’t a fence around it so the center isn’t secluded from the neighborhood. There is also a community garden on the top of the second floor, which I hope incorporate into my own building. I want to nature to be a key part of my design.

Carbondale Recreation and Community Center’s lobby- Carbondale, Colorado (bottom right)
When looking at lobbies of community centers, most of them seemed fairly. Looking at the current design for my center, I don’t have too much space to work with. This center seemed most similar to the design plan I had in my head, but a little bigger. I like the arrangement of the chairs and the pop of color of everything. The outside of the center uses mostly neutral and earthy colors, so it makes sense for the inside to be colorful to contrast the outside. I think the choice of colors also is used to make the visitor feel more relaxed. I also like the curved desk shape because it adds to the relaxed feel of the space. There isn’t much in the space except for the chairs so there is a spatial void, which I like because it gives the visitor more personal space when they walk in and doesn’t overwhelm them.

Learning Commons-Latin School of Chicago (top right)
This year, my school chose to renovate the cafeteria and lunch room by combining them into one area that we call the Learning Commons (L.C.). The place to get food is separate from the actual cafeteria and now has three lines for food to minimize the average wait time for food. The cafeteria is surrounded by books so student can study but also eat lunch at the same time. There are several long tables made of short tables. The actual cafeteria is on the first level, but there is a whole second level that can be accessed through stairs. The extreme right side is made of different small rooms with different purposes. Some of the rooms are collaboration rooms made for people who want to work in groups on a projects and some rooms are silent rooms meant for people who need a place to focus on their work. Both these rooms are sound proof to allow student to focus. Outside these rooms are other table meant for students to work at. Beyond this work area is a kiosk for students to study and eat. All these rooms are on the second level of the L.C. I would like my area for kids in my building to function a bit like a like a L.C., allowing the kids to be able to eat snacks but also study. There will not be a kiosk, but there will be a vending machine for snacks.

Site Analysis

Existing Conditions
Though the building isn’t falling apart, you can tell it’s old and hasn’t been touched for a long time. It is flat and box-shaped, very monotone design-wise. Outside the building is a concrete sidewalk which doesn’t contain many trees. Foundation is also concrete. Is located surface level, but there is basement level that few use. The building is next to an Aldi and a train station and under it are several businesses the building doesn’t own.
Since the building is compact, it isn’t really affected by the weather. I hope to keep that compact shape at the base of the building. The building doesn’t utilize glass at all in the design, besides the small windows, but I hope to make the windows bigger so the sunlight can reflect off and make the building look more appealing.
The building contains all utilities: power, running water, electricity, sewer system. The air conditioner sometimes ends up shutting off in the summer when it’s needed which can sometimes be inconvenient on abnormally hot days.
Neighborhood Context
The building is located in Uptown, specifically a part of Uptown that contains a lot of immigrants so most of the tenants are immigrants. The building neighbors a huge Aldi store and a train station, but isn’t connected to either. The most common material used for building in the neighborhood is brick and the building is already made of brick, so I’ll probably stick with that material. Most buildings in the neighborhood are flat and boxy shaped so changing the shape of the building will make it stand out.
The site is easy to access. There is a side walk right in front all along the perimeter of the building besides the back where the parking lot is located. Along the sidewalk there are five different entrances, including one larger main entrance. There is a road right in front of the sidewalk that isn’t usually too busy. There is street parking in front of the building as well.
The overall look of the building is boring and drab, but once you go inside, you might feel differently. On the average weekday, you wouldn’t see too many people coming in, out, or roaming around the building. There is no energy. However, on a Sunday, when churches are in session all day, the energy of the building is lifted. You hear kids running in the hallway and music from different churches. The music is so loud that people outside the building can hear and enjoy. I want the outside of the building to match the energy inside the building.
I think the potential to build is there, the only obstacle would be the businesses at the bottom and the businesses and churches within that we would be disrupting. However, I think the final outcome would be worth it and tenants and business owners would be pleased.

Bubble Diagrams

Mood Diagrams

Schematic Design

Final Product

Main Color Scheme:

Main materials used: brick, dry wall, cement, and glass.


This is the final model. I created a model of only the first floor of the building, since it is the main part of the building I am changing. If I were to continue with this project, I would start to play with different shapes for the roof of the building. In my sketches, I made a roof garden surrounded by glass and covered with a slanted roof. I think adding this element would capture people’s attention and attract kids to it because of how different the building’s shape is from neighboring buildings. I would also add artwork to decorate the inside and outside of the building. My idea would be to have the whole community come together one day and paint the back, since currently the back is drab and bare. In the building, I would like to have artwork and information about the history of the community for kids to learn about. A large majority of kids in the neighborhood know nothing about the history so I think it would be interesting to educate them on their past.

Thank you for looking at my project and leave any questions and comments below!

Share this project
  1. April 25, 2019 by Eliz

    Great job Liza! Proud of you!

  2. April 25, 2019 by Natalie

    I really like this project! I can’t wait to see more. Good job!

  3. April 25, 2019 by Judy

    Uptown really needs this! Let’s make it happen!

  4. April 25, 2019 by Dana

    Awesome project Liza!
    I especially like the idea of including the roof garden and an art work in your design!
    I am very impressed by your project and your bright ideas.

  5. April 26, 2019 by Larry

    I like the sustainability ideas used.
    Congrats Liza

  6. April 26, 2019 by Ola

    Great job Liza

  7. April 26, 2019 by Maria

    This is an incredible idea, great job Liza.

  8. April 26, 2019 by Sarah

    Really love the idea of updating the use of this older building to make it more modern and usable as a community center. The color scheme is very vibrant and welcoming.

  9. April 26, 2019 by HENRIETTA EGHAN

    Once a urban planning major…i love your work…Congrats Liza

  10. April 26, 2019 by Michael Kissi

    Watch out!!! Female version of Frank Lloyd Wright downloading. Keep it up, girl.

  11. April 27, 2019 by Sheila Noye

    Brilliant! Way to go Liza. Keep up the good work!

  12. April 27, 2019 by Leticia Bonsu

    Great work, Keep it up.

  13. April 28, 2019 by Eliza.Ellis

    Wow, this is so cool! I can tell you put a lot of effort into this and it definitely payed off!

  14. April 28, 2019 by Leo.Abelson

    Your SketchUp model is amazing! It gave me a clear understanding of your design.

  15. April 28, 2019 by Jessica

    Truly amazing. The effort put into this is very evident! Lee up the great work!

  16. April 29, 2019 by Adwoa

    Wow! I am very impressed! Great thinking Liza. That part of Chicago definitely needs a place like this, especially to keep kids of the streets. Congrats!

  17. April 30, 2019 by Kay

    This looks like a thoughtful work. Truly this neighborhood will greatly benefit from a safe community center, because of its residential and commercial activities combined. Very smart move – keep it up!

  18. May 06, 2019 by Gabriel Di Gennaro

    Great ideas, Liza! I enjoyed your inclusion of art and history into the building, saying that it was important for the children to learn about what’s come before them.

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