Department of Urban and Regional Planning   
University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign   

UP 503: Site and Physical Planning

Assignment 6a: Socio-economic Context and Social Suitability

This exercise is intended as a transition from the very environment-centered region-wide analyses of the past several weeks to a more focused site level plan for sustainable residential development. From this point on, you will be working on creating a master plan for a specific site. This week, you will look at the social and economic considerations that shape development decisions at the site level. What are the plausible options for the site based on existing conditions and trends both immediately surrounding the site and across the city or metropolitan area as whole? Should there be suburban style homes on large lots? Denser housing? What about a mixed use community hub that includes a range of housing types along with neighborhood retail and maybe some office space? Use your imagination along with the results of your analysis to think about the character and scale of development that makes sense. Although you will not design the site, the intent is that the appropriate jurisdiction could use your master plan to attract developers and guide their more detailed design.
For this assignment:

1) Select a site: Three infill sights have been identified as priority development areas in the metropolitan area. The cities would like to see these areas (re)developed and integrated with the surrounding neighborhoods prior to further expansion on the exurban fringe. Your first task is to select a single site among the proposed alternatives. Each site comes with a unique set of challenges that will ultimately shape the type, mix, and intensity of uses included in the master plan. Further, the sites differ in how they align with various substantive interests (infill, mixed use, community development and neighborhood revitalization…) and urban design trends (e.g. New Urbanist or Traditional Neighborhood Development (TND) ideas, green or low-impact development, Transit-oriented Development (TOD)…). For the purposes of this exercise, you can assume that the sites have essentially been wiped clean of existing development and uses. The sites include:

  • The Country Fair shopping center (Champaign)
  • Douglas Square (Champaign and Urbana)
  • Orchard Downs family housing (UIUC Campus)

2) Conduct an analysis of the site’s socio-economic context: What are the existing conditions of the neighborhood surrounding the site? How is it changing over time? How does this compare to the metropolitan area as a whole? The results of this analysis should be used to highlight needs, opportunities, or constraints with regard to the characteristics (mix and arrangement of uses) of new development activity. These findings should then be used to generate development ideas for the site that will be translated into a land use mix and site layout over the remainder of the semester.

3) Define the site: Map images with the approximate boundaries of the sites have been provided on the course schedule for each location. Based on your exploration of the area, clearly delineate the boundaries of the site.

Use a variety of resources to find the data you need to include GIS shapefiles, the US Census,, city plans and metrics (e.g. land use maps and wellness indicators), the County Assessor’s office (, and Google maps. For the socio-economic context, compile information about indicators such as household size, household income, home ownership, housing value, and/or vacancy. This is not an exhaustive list and other indicators and sources of data can be used to personalize your analysis. Do this for the last 2 decennial Census years (2000 and 2010). Pay attention to how you visualize the data to allow for the comparison of indicators across time and space, both for your site and the larger metropolitan area. How are these different between the local area and the region, and how have they changed over time?  Visit and look at local housing prices (under the "Local Info" tab). How have they changed over time near your site and how has this change compared with larger area trends?  You have visited many sites around the city for the Understanding Density assignment. Think about how the socio-economic context manifests itself physically around the city. What land uses and facilities are accessible from the site? Explain how your analysis might inform the way your area is developed (e.g mix, type and intensity of development). Keep in mind that this is an iterative process and you do not need to arrive at a definitive vision for the site at this point.

Synthesize your findings in a memo. At a minimum, include a map showing the location of your site as you have defined the limits of the project area (two pages of text maximum; graphs, tables, and figures as needed will be extra). This document named by 6a_[Last Name].pdf is to be uploaded to the Assignment Dropbox folder before start of class on Thurs, Oct 24.

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