Chicago developer Fern Hill has enlisted famous starchitect Sir David Adjaye to envision a massive, multi-parcel redevelopment plan near the intersection of North Avenue and LaSalle Drive in Old Town.

The developer introduced the Ghanaian-British designer—who is perhaps best known on this side of the Atlantic for the Smithsonian's National Museum of African American History and Culture in Washington D.C.—at a community webinar hosted by Ald. Brian Hopkins (2nd) earlier this week.

"With a project of this scale and importance, it's allowed us to engage one of the most prolific design architects in the world," said Fern Hill's Mike Ellch. "We're extremely excited to have the opportunity to work with a designer that puts an emphasis on place, on culture, and above all, designing places where people want to live and spend time."

Adjaye's National Museum of African American History and Culture in Washington D.C.Shutterstock

The meeting did not discuss specific plans for the Old Town sites, which include The Moody Church and parking lot, the Walgreens and the vacant Treasure Island grocery store on Wells, and nearby Shell and BP gas stations. Moody Church will partner with Fern Hill on the northside project.

Before any plans are shown to the public, the team intends to collect feedback from residents and other local stakeholders through what Ald. Hopkins called "the most interactive community review process for any development in the city of Chicago." The developers intend to launch an online platform for collecting information using surveys as well as a map on which members of the public can leave feedback. 

Moody parking lot at the northwest corner of North and LaSalle.Google Street View

"I think what we have here is an opportunity to do something very good for the city, but that will only happen if the community will accept what is ultimately put before you at the end of this design process," Hopkins told residents. "I welcome your involvement and look forward to a very robust dialogue. I'm particularly excited about the interactive tool. I think it's going to make my job as alderman much easier, and it will give you a way to play a more active role in this [development]."

Fern Hill says it will launch the interactive website for the North and LaSalle project in the coming weeks. The development team expects to present Adjaye's vision for the parcels to the community in early 2022. 

"We know Chicago very well, and we're big fans of the city, which has this extraordinary heritage and lineage in architecture," added David Adjaye. "We're deeply inspired by this incredible city and the ability to be to work in Old Town: to understand its context and its neighborhood, but also to make what will be a signature development in the city."

Fern Hill/2nd Ward