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Fill the (Housing) Gap:  A Missing Middle Design Competition

SITE 01: Lake Bluff, IL

The Site and Program

The site is located along the Southeast corner of Sheridan Road and North Avenue (615-617 Sheridan Rd), approximately ¼ of an acre in Lake Bluff’s Central Business District composed of three parcels:

  • (SW) Brookside Cleaners – 3 story, mixed use; tenants include dry cleaner, office, and 6 apartments.

  • (NW) Undeveloped Lot – Landscaped open space owned by the Village of Lake Bluff.

  • (E) Parking Lot – 18 spaces for the Brookside Cleaners building.

The site is directly adjacent to Lake Bluff’s Metra station, which provides frequent service via the Union Pacific – North commuter line to Chicago’s Loop as well as approximately 176 parking spaces for commuters and downtown Lake Bluff. Lake Michigan is less than a mile east.

Lake Bluff has been recognized as one of Coastal Living’s Happiest Seaside Towns, as well as one of Chicago magazine’s 20 Great Towns and Neighborhoods. Notable nearby employers include AbbVie (pharmaceuticals), Abbott (pharmaceuticals), Rosalind Franklin (medical school), and Naval Station Great Lakes. The Central Business District (but not the site) is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

Participants are strongly encouraged to consider the following:


  • Proposers should read the one-page design guidelines applicable to the Central Business District in their entirety.

  • The following by-right design limitations apply to the subject property:

    • Residential uses on the first, second, and third floors are permitted uses

    • Maximum height: 35 feet or 3 stories

    • Area-to-unit ratio: 1,000 square feet of underlying lot area per residential unit. Maximum lot coverage is 60%

    • Setbacks:

      • From North Avenue (North): 20'

      • From Scranton Ave (South): 0’

      • From residential zoned property (East): 15’

      • From Sheridan Road (West): 15’

  • Designs do not need to meet all regulations of the existing zoning ordinance but will be tested against the city’s zoning ordinances and building code in order to identify what hurdles exist to the kind of development the city wants to see.  

  • Be mindful and responsive to neighborhood context, including its’ close proximity to the Metra Station. Use the infill designs to improve the existing fabric. Compose the "missing teeth", knitting the new with old.

  • Project viability and marketability is key.  This includes cost effectiveness of development and construction.

  • Account for required parking. There should be 1.5 spaces per unit on first floor; 1 space per unit on upper floors. Standard minimum stall width is 9’. The Village’s Metra commuter lot is directly across the street from the site. A deviation to allow remote parking and payment of the fee-in-lieu may be a cost-effective way to meet the minimum parking demands in place for this site.

Example Resident Profiles

Ashley is a single female in her mid-20’s who just completed her third year of teaching at Lake Bluff Middle School. She walks to and from work and, on Sundays when the weather is nice, grades her student’s work on Sunrise Beach. She enjoys spending time at music concerts, perusing the farmer’s market, and listening to podcasts. She is also trying to convince her younger sister to move in her second bedroom to become her roommate and help her share rent costs.

Thomas and Mary are a married couple in their upper 60’s. Thomas retired a few years ago. They are looking to downsize from their large single family home but stay in the same community. They both love arts and culture and are board members for the Lake Bluff History Museum. They can often be found outside, golfing, gardening and spending time in downtown Lake Bluff dining with long-time friends or entertaining visiting family.

George is recently divorced in his late 40s. He works at a nearby major pharmaceutical company as a lead project researcher. He has two sons, Andrew and Christopher, and he shares custody of them with their mother Amanda in Lake Forest. George wants to relocate somewhere close to his children and place of employment. He enjoys riding bicycles competitively as well as boating.

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