West Loop Design Guidelines

The West Loop is a diverse and rapidly growing neighborhood just west of downtown Chicago. Concerns from local residents about the rapid pace of new development led the City of Chicago Department of Planning and Development (DPD) to seek planning assistance to provide tools for coordinating future development proposals.


City of Chicago


Chicago, IL


Planning and Urban Design /
Planning + Strategies /

The neighborhood’s proximity to the Loop, access to various transportation networks as well as a thriving dining and retail scene make it one of the most desirable neighborhoods in the City of Chicago to live, work, and play. SCB was part of a multi-disciplinary team selected by DPD to lead a process to create design guidelines for the neighborhood. Participation by community stakeholders was critical to the planning process. Public engagement included input by more than three hundred individuals over the course of two open houses, three working group meetings, and an online survey.

A key component of the guidelines was to encourage design excellence within the context of the West Loop’s rapid redevelopment and desirability as the innovation district and preferred location for technology companies. The new guidelines emphasized preservation within the old historic meatpacking district and enhancement of the existing urban street walls, through sensitive building and parking design and the use of compatible materials. Strategies for specific corridors and sites included recommendations for building form, retail zones, and the design of the public realm. Additionally, the West Loop Design Guidelines addressed improvements to pedestrian/bicyclist safety, sustainable design, signage and identity in the public realm.

Thoughtful place-making was a major priority and the guidelines highlight opportunities for vacant lot improvements and support for City initiatives such as “make way for people” and/or “people spots” programs that establish temporary places for art, streetscape and creative neighborhood hangout zones.