For many years now, the East St. Louis Design Workshop has engaged students from Architecture, Landscape Architecture, and Urban Planning in design and planning for the East St. Louis community. This course illustrates a service-learning approach to university education by engaging students in "real world" design and planning issues that are of practical use to community organizations in East St. Louis. In Spring 2002, the East St. Louis Design Workshop began the process of developing a neighborhood plan for the South End Neighborhood Development Organization (SENDO). Thirty-six students and four faculty from the three disciplines participated.

The fifteen-week course produced a Neighborhood Inventory of the social, economic, and environmental influences on the South End; a Neighborhood Plan Working Document; and seven creative and ambitious Neighborhood Plan Designs. The students' work was presented to both university faculty and to the SENDO members for discussion. Currently, the neighborhood plan is a working document that will facilitate further discussion and refinement. The work will continue in Spring 2003 when a new group of students - along with both new and returning faculty - will work closely with SENDO members to complete a written plan and physical design.

List of students and faculty
Course syllabus
Urban planning students website
   Readings and Discussion
  Required readings and class discussions engaged students in various socio-cultural issues related to neighborhood planning. Groups of students were responsible for giving Powerpoint presentations on the following topics: empowerment, urban poverty, gender, ethnicity, and economic development.

Course Reading
   Neighborhood Inventory
  Much of the semester was spent collecting information on East St. Louis and the South End. During a series of site visits, students collected data for GIS (Geographic Information Systems) mapping of neighborhood conditions, conducted resident interviews, and facilitated community meetings to gather information about the physical and social conditions and needs of the community. Upon return to the university, students collected additional information from the census, the United States Geological Survey (USGS), Internet, books, journals, and other sources.

In small groups, students made maps based on their research. These include:

Everyday Needs: This map locates stores, churches, schools, parks, municipal offices, and other services in and around the South End. The students gathered the information from resident interviews, the phone book, and the Internet.

Link to map

Neighborhood Form: This map used a system developed by well-known planner Kevin Lynch to study neighborhood legibility, or how people visually navigate through their communities. It includes identifying landmarks (churches, schools, parks, and historic sites), nodes (important points of intersection), districts, paths, and edges.

Link to map

Regional Context: To understand larger patterns that influence South End, another group of students mapped out regional influences such as historic migration patterns, terrestrial eco-regions, and nearby population areas. They also showed the major transportation corridors, airports, colleges, universities, and cultural centers in the region.

Link to maps

Metropolitan Framework: This group explored the metropolitan area of East St. Louis and environs through an investigation of both physical and social factors. They mapped topography, flood zones, and hazardous waste sites. They also showed municipal boundaries and the neighborhoods within East St. Louis. Transportation corridors included major highways, roads, bus routes and the Metrolink mass-transit corridor.

Link to maps

History: The group of students assigned to uncover the history of South End had a very challenging task. While they could find old maps dating from 1902 and 1965, there remains a need for stories from the older residents and photographs that will provide a more complete social history of the South End neighborhood and its relationship to other parts of East St. Louis and the region.

In addition, students were asked to keep a sketchbook/journal of their experiences. These books contained field notes, sketches, reading reflections, and personal entries.

  Community Meetings
  SENDO Meeting #1 At the February SENDO meeting, a group of students engaged SENDO members in a SWOT analysis and a Cognitive Mapping Exercise.

SWOT is named after the four pieces of information this exercise seeks to learn from residents: the Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats that affect daily life in the community. A list of strengths is created that incorporates positive aspects that currently exist within a community, such as parks, rivers, and so on. Weaknesses are any negative aspects. Residents are then asked to list opportunities based on the strengths as well as threats that need to be addressed in neighborhood planning.

Cognitive Mapping is simply a way for the students to see the neighborhood as the residents do. Students work with residents to show on a map the places they live, work, play, and use. In addition, they mark the boundaries of the South End, any districts or special areas within the South End, local landmarks, important resources (such as parks or successful businesses), and problem sites.

Cognitive Mapping
Photos from meeting

SENDO Meeting #2
Again in March, a group of students joined the residents at their monthly SENDO meeting. Students presented the findings of their analysis for review and corrections. In addition, the architecture and landscape architecture students presented "scenario" boards to convey a range of design possibilities, including a gateway to the South End, redevelopment of parks, street lighting, options for a new community center, infill housing, new commercial, etc.

Examples of scenarios: river / street / safety
Photos of meeting

SENDO Meeting #3
In April, students worked with residents in small groups to gather more specific information on six topics previously identified by SENDO members as important to the plan: streetscape and infrastructure, parks and open space, housing and home improvements, neighborhood center and community services, commercial development, and community safety.

Photos of meeting

SENDO Meeting #4

Although a near miss with a tornado almost postponed this meeting, a group of seven architecture and two urban planning students and one faculty member arrived in the South End to present the seven neighborhood plans. After introductory meeting comments by SENDO president, Fern Watts, the students presented seven design proposals to South End residents. Students and residents engaged in brief discussion about each proposal. Residents also provided written comments and critiques of each design proposal, noting their most favorite and least favorite aspects of each. Due to the inclement weather and the end of school activities, both student and resident attendance was lower than at previous meetings. Residents in attendance also indicated they needed more time to consider the proposals put before them. Thus, workshop faculty are coordinating with the SENDO president to schedule another date and venue for residents to consider and comment on student design proposals in the fall of 2002. Then a composite design proposal incorporating the most popular aspects can be crafted when students and residents work together during the spring of 2003.

   Design and Planning
  During the second half of the semester, the planning students developed neighborhood plan guidelines based on the topic areas that were identified by SENDO members: streets and infrastructure, parks and open space, neighborhood center and community services, housing and home improvement, commercial development and daily needs, and community safety.

In concert with the developing plan, seven teams of landscape architecture and architecture students developed neighborhood plans that addressed all the guideline elements. A range of inspirations, such as regional connection, ecological sustainability, economic development, and community pride, drove the schemes. Each group gave their design a title that reflects its focus:

Heart of South End
SWALE (Sustainable Wetlands Alternative for a Livable Environment)
Pedestrian Oriented Development
Connected Community

 Other Resources
  Census data
Neighborhood conditions survey
Class archives ( Spring 2001, Spring 2000, Spring 1999 )
   Questions and Comments

The South End Neighborhood Plan is a work-in-progress. We appreciate your comments and suggestions.
Contact Laura Lawson (