InterPlay Park is an intergenerational park for the people of Peoria that reconnects communities divided by the construction of the I-74 Interstate corridor in 1958.
Interstate-74 brought Peoria into America’s interstate highway system and was expected to facilitate progress and prosperity, but its construction ultimately detrimental to the city fabric. In Peoria, as with many other US cities, the interstate encouraged urban sprawl and suburbanization, hollowing out downtown. Viable residential neighborhoods were altered and abandoned. The interstate physically divided communities, paved over homes and businesses, and polluted neighborhoods. Inserting highways often occurred with “urban renewal”, which targeted predominantly low-income and minority communities with the least political power. InterPlay Park is an opportunity to rectify past planning mistakes—cities should be designed not only for the community, but with the community.
By creating a park over I-74 that connects North Valley and the Downtown District it allows two divided neighborhoods to once again be whole. A walkable district will encourage downtown foot traffic and spur new development and investment in the adjacent neighborhoods. Surrounded by multiple existing community organizations, non-profits, and healthcare businesses, the park can extend the mission of community-oriented development to public spaces in Peoria.
The park emphasizes cross-generational play and equitable access to green space. InterPlay Park focuses on active and passive recreation, along with tactile and sensory experiences. The linear park consists of programmatic “molecules” of varying sizes that intermix programming for all age groups. The design of each molecule is flexible so the park can adapt to the city’s needs. The Peorian’s that live, work, and study downtown are the stakeholders of the park, so the arrangement, scale, and programming of the “molecules” are contingent upon their feedback. The molecules are strategically interspersed in an open lawn that can be used for leisure, performances, or events. Landmarks anchor each end of the park, aiding in pedestrian wayfinding. Drivers on the I-74 below will see these landmarks as they drive to and from Downtown Peoria. On the eastern side of the park, The Window opens to the highway below, creating an oculus that stimulates curiosity and beckons users to peer down onto the interstate. On the western side of the park, The Tree Cathedral frames the sky above, naturally raising the gaze of visitors and sparking imagination.
InterPlay also mitigates environmental issues from the interstate; the green cap will lessen noise and air pollution from the highway to the adjacent neighborhoods. Peoria is the 22nd fastest warming city in the US and also experiences frequent CSOs. Infiltration areas and tree cover will help alleviate the cities worsening stormwater problems and heat island effect.
InterPlay Park has the potential to become a destination that spurs development and investment in Downtown Peoria. With InterPlay Park, the I-74 corridor becomes a walkable destination in the city, rather than an area to avoid. Parks and open space are vital for the cultivation of physical and mental health, while equitable access to green space is critical for community health and social cohesion. InterPlay Park is a framework, adaptable to how the community wants to play and utilize public space. Unlike the construction of the interstate, Peorian’s will drive the design of InterPlay Park. The park and collaborative process itself aim to revive the spirit of Downtown Peoria by highlighting the vibrant possibilities when people of all ages and backgrounds can join together and play.
Location: Peoria, Illinois, USA
Landscape Architect: TERRAIN WORK
Image 1: Aerial Rendering, TERRAIN WORK
Image 2: Sanborn Map, Diagram, TERRAIN WORK. Aerial Photos, Google Earth & Peoria Library Archives, Peoria, Illinois
Image 3: Diagrams, TERRAIN WORK
Image 4: Diagrams, TERRAIN WORK
Image 5: Rendering, TERRAIN WORK
Image 6: Rendering, TERRAIN WORK
Image 7: Rendering, TERRAIN WORK
Image 8: Rendering, TERRAIN WORK
Image 9: Aerial Rendering, TERRAIN WORK
Image 10:Aerial Rendering, TERRAIN WORK