Neighborhood Activation to Increase Public Safety through Community-Empowered Design and Planning


Completed 2021

City of Chicago



Neighborhood Activation is a new initiative in Chicago aimed at increasing public safety in the city’s most vulnerable neighborhoods by making coordinated, community-directed investments in programs, social services, and the built environment at the scale of the individual block.

Working from the understanding that the causes of violence are complex and rooted in inequity, Studio Gang partnered with the Goldin Institute and the City of Chicago to establish a replicable Neighborhood Activation design and planning process that can be used to uplift community aspirations in neighborhoods across the city, as well as to implement key programs and projects in the pilot neighborhood of West Garfield Park.

Three short-term design interventions — streetscape improvements, a more welcoming Legler Library, and a new community plaza on Madison Street that includes a roller rink and other amenities — emerged as immediate outcomes of the Neighborhood Activation process in West Garfield Park.

A Youth Design Leadership program focused on bringing young people into the Neighborhood Activation process and introducing them to the fundamentals of design was led by Chicago Mobile Makers.

Project Team

City of Chicago

The Goldin Institute

Chicago Peace Fellows

Garfield Park Rite to Wellness Collaborative


Chicago Mobile Makers, Youth Design Leadership Program lead

Site Design Group, Roller Rink design



City Bureau — "A Neighborhood Rink in the (Co)Making"

"In a once-vacant lot on Chicago’s West Side Garfield Park neighborhood, a new outdoor roller rink has made space for kids and adults alike to spend their summer days on eight wheels in a beloved Chicago pastime.

But the rink didn’t appear overnight; nine months prior to its opening, Studio Gang Architects...were tapped to design a community engagement process that would work collaboratively with Garfield Park organizations and residents to generate ideas and feedback on the roller rink."


City of Chicago Breaks Ground on Community Plaza and Roller Rink in West Garfield Park Neighborhood

"Design has a critical role to play in uplifting communities and making our cities more equitable and resilient. Working with the people who know Garfield Park best—its residents—to imagine the future of their neighborhood has been incredibly rewarding. We're proud to help our home city of Chicago to invest in the safety and prosperity of this community." — Jeanne Gang


WBEZ — "Garfield Park Community Plaza Aims to Reduce Gun Violence"

"In West Garfield Park, residents are hoping a new community plaza, with a roller rink for kids and plans for family movie nights, will turn the tides."

Listen to the whole story