LOCATION : Elgin, Illinois
MARKET : Master Planning, Residential
A New Community with Historic "Sense of Place"

1212 Larkin is an integrated permanent supportive housing project in Elgin, Illinois that uses "New Urbanist" design principles to create a special "sense of place." The development, now nearly complete, consists of 48 units in 12 new-construction, multifamily apartment buildings, and the preservation and historic reuse of the former Larkin Center. It is targeted to serve populations with special needs, and working families, and to reach a broad range of Elgin renters in need of affordable housing.

The Larkin Center, built in 1912 as an orphanage and an Elgin landmark listed on the National Historic Register, gets new life as the focus of a new supportive residential development. The three-story historic building at 1212 Larkin Avenue dates to 1912 and sits on 3.4 acres with three other buildings, including a former dormitory. The Larkin Center building has been renovated in accordance with National Registry standards and now includes apartments, a community room, fitness center, library/study room, computer lab, laundry, storage and office space for the Association for Individual Development, with a full-time resident coordinator on site to help residents with financial counseling, tax preparation and connections to first-time home buyer programs for working families, officials.

Filling out the rest of the block are 12 new two-story residential buildings that recall an older, typical Elgin neighborhood. Constructed in Georgian Revival style compatible with Elgin’s historic architecture, these twelve buildings resemble single family homes but include 47 apartments. These residential buildings are unusual for the level of quality and detail they bring to workforce housing. The Larkin development is also distinctive for the way in which it separates apartments into smaller buildings that resemble single family homes. This merges the apartments with the scale of the surrounding community of single family residences. Also distinctive are the generous front porches, a key feature of "new urbanist’ design but unusual for contemporary affordable housing.

The Larkin street front of outdoor porches is remarkable level and variety of detail. The front porch, which went out of vogue following World War II, has played a key role in fostering community, and makes a comeback here. The front porch creates a transition between the private and public realm where people can meet friends and neighbors. It is an outdoor living room that provides a setting where people can see their neighbors face to face, and where parents can watch their children play outdoors. It creates a semi-private, semi-public zone where people can interact with the surrounding community.

Redeveloping the center lets local residents with disabilities remain in the neighborhoods they know and love, Lindsey Haines, Full Circle's vice president for real estate development. "It's amazing what a doorway that is wide enough, an elevator and accessible bathroom can do to change a person's life," Haines said at the time. "It's so important because 94 percent of housing in Elgin was built before ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act) requirements and have limited" features for the disabled.