February 5, 2020

Epstein's Director of Civil Engineering, Greg Osborne, P.E., LEED AP, shares some insight on the recently-completed project, including its genesis, the design inspiration and goals, and the implementation:

A.N. Pritzker Elementary School is a Chicago Public School with both a Fine and Performing Arts program open to the neighborhood and a Regional Gifted Center. The school has more than 700 students from all over the city. During recess, students used an L-shaped open asphalt area with basketball courts, play equipment and painted chess boards and four square courts. There was also a garden that was fenced off and inaccessible to the students. Kickball, soccer and football were popular sports played by the students and they were played on an asphalt area.

In 2016, a group of parents involved in the Friends of Pritzker (FOP) fundraising organization voted to focus their efforts on the campus. The parent community was fortunate enough to have an architect as a parent who volunteered his services to create a vision for the playground. The overall vision was to transform the outdoor play space into a dynamic, safe and attractive facility to benefit all students and families in the community. This included basketball, kickball, soccer, a running track, upgraded play equipment, a natural garden space, and a place to display art from the Fine Arts program, which every student in the school participates in.

Epstein was delighted to get involved with this project, serving as the design civil engineers and the architect of record. Working with Burhani Design Architects and Wolf Landscape Architecture, we were tasked with:

  • Reviewing the conceptual site plan and the existing building
  • Coordinating with the design and landscape architects to pair creativity, color and use
  • Designing underground detention facilities and bioinfiltration areas and permitting through Department of Water Management
  • Designing off-site ADA ramp improvements
  • Providing construction management and weekly construction site visits

In addition to the architect, there was also a graphic designer and contractor within the parent group. Additionally, Greg, who's part of the FOP, served as the civil engineer. All were recruited to assist with creating the vision for the playground. A playground committee was formed and a group of parents dedicated their time and resources to fundraising and planning.

Epstein helped transform the area from an urban heat island to a space with shade trees, turf and a garden. The amount of impermeable surface was reduced by 31 percent. The site is now capturing 108,000 gallons of stormwater during a major rain event and temporarily holding it, which reduces inundation of the city sewers as well as basement flooding. The parking lot was moved to align with the street and create a buffer between students and street. This also organized the play space in a way that eliminated the L-shape, providing for better monitoring during recess.

Additionally, landscaping was designed to be added onto by the parent community over time.

This project has been broken into phases. Phase II will include replacing and enlarging existing play equipment.

For years, Greg has worked as part of the FOP fundraising for A.N. Pritzker. The group sets out to accomplish significant improvements for the school yearly. Their largest project to date is the playground; Epstein is proud to have contributed to a project that benefits both children and families within the community.