Neighborhood Poll #3 Results

6 months ago


You did it! Thank you for helping us understand your preferences as they relate to mixed use and residential building design treatments in Lincoln Square! During earlier polls and events, we heard comments about new building developments and how they contribute to the look and feel of Lincoln Square. To take those comments one step further, we developed Poll #3 which delved deeper into these topics via a visual preference survey.

Overview + Participation

Neighborhood Poll #3 was open for 3-weeks, going live on Friday, January 4th and closing the afternoon of Friday, January 25th, 2019. During that time, nearly 500 participants (487 to be exact) took the poll, rating their ideals regarding building design and ground floor activity and sharing insights about why they like, love or loathe varying development types, styles and building materials. Participants were asked to provide their “gut reactions” by rating each image on a scale of 1 (love) to 5 (dislike) and to provide additional insights via the open comment section, if desired.

It's all in the details…

Over 1,800 open ended comments were received; 1,835 to be exact! One of the great things about open-ended comments are people aren’t limited to the predetermined set of possible answer choices. As such, we ended up collecting a rich pool of genuine opinions and context from folks regarding building design, orientation and materials, ground floor activity, landscaping, shared spaced, and so much more. Thank you to everyone who took the time to provide this detail. It has helped us immensely in understanding the “bigger picture” and your development values for Lincoln Square.


A summary of the findings from neighborhood poll #3 is provided below. Given the depth of responses and comments received, it is essential to approach these findings with a discerning eye. With so much input and varying opinions garnered, we must determine a way to successfully extract the value added and preferences of the neighborhood at large.

Some image ratings are very stark, straightforward, and easy to understand –predominately loved, liked or overwhelmingly disliked. Other images received a mix of responses across all ratings or predominately fell in the neutral category. As we look to these findings – your collective input, ratings and comments - we have reviewed the nuances and connections of all input received to inform the Lincoln Square Design Guidelines.

4-Step Process

To help understand those aspects of building design and ground floor activity that were well liked and loved versus not desired, the overall feedback received for each image were reviewed in the following 4-step process:

  1. Review: To start, we began with an overall review of the individual bar charts to determine the highs and lows of ratings for each image.
  2. Group: Next, we grouped the images into one of three categories based on their overall ranking: (1) highly rated, (2) lowly rated, (3) mixed reviews.
  3. Read: We then conducted a thorough read of all the comments received to help discern and summarize why images were rated as favorable, unfavorable, or “meh”.
  4. Identify: Finally, we merged the holistic findings of the ratings and comments across the three categories to distinguish what factors specifically did participants like, love, loathe – or were generally, just not that impressed with.

Poll Results

PART A: Building Design

Building Design: Highest Rated Images

Distinguishing Factors + Comment Commonalities

Generally, most participants noted that they like the following features:
  • Brick / vintage / older façade
  • Chicago-style / traditional architecture
  • Restoration / retrofits of older buildings
  • Buildings that “blend” into neighborhood
  • Dank House (Q16) is cherished, but not in scale with surroundings and needs updating
  • Architectural interest / delineation
  • Incorporate public art / murals
  • Neighborhood scale (2-3 stories)
  • Taller buildings should be located on Western
  • Integrate greenery to soften facade

Building Design: Lowest Rated Images

Distinguishing Factors + Comment Commonalities

Generally, most participants noted that they dislike the following features:
  • Strip malls are not appropriate for neighborhood
  • Parking lots in front are a waste of space
  • Generic / repetitive architecture
  • Boring buildings / no character
  • Street level does not have enough glass
  • Cinderblock materials are unattractive
  • Lacking street activation
  • Balconies without sunlight

Building Design: Images with Mixed Ratings - Set 1

Distinguishing Factors + Comment Commonalities

Many of the comments received highlight that while the building style, scale and materials may be attractive, they do not interface / blend well with Lincoln Square – its neighborhood character, history, and established aesthetic.

  • Too modern / too much glass
  • Does not fit character of Lincoln Square
  • Looks like an office or hotel
  • Too dense

  • Interesting roof delineation
  • Color contrast to add interest
  • Ground floor retail
  • Integration of balconies

Building Design: Images with Mixed Ratings - Set 2

Distinguishing Factors + Comment Commonalities

  • Like the warm / yellow brick
  • Dated, needs updating
  • Classic / traditional architecture
  • Proper neighborhood scale
  • Needs a wider sidewalk
  • Alley is perfect spot for a mural
  • Too “bulky” / “hulking”
  • Out of scale with neighboring buildings
  • Balconies are too far setback
  • Too heavy on bottom
  • Limestone columns make for cavernous feel

PART B: Ground Floor Activity

Ground Floor Activity: Highest Rated Images

Distinguishing Factors + Comment Commonalities

Generally, most participants noted that they like the following features:
  • Patio space / sidewalk dining
  • Historic street lighting
  • Ground floor awnings
  • Variety of landscaping / planters
  • Mature trees that provide shade
  • Large glass windows on ground floor
  • Pedestrian scaled
  • Quaint and inviting
  • Wide sidewalks
  • A feeling of privacy in the public realm
  • Interesting storefronts on ground floor

Caution: Ensure patio space does not encroach on sidewalk creating too narrow of a walkway

Ground Floor Activity: Lowest Rated Images

Distinguishing Factors + Comment Commonalities

Generally, most participants noted that they dislike the following features:

  • No strip malls in urban centers
  • No parking lots in front of buildings
  • Sidewalks are too narrow
  • Too close to traffic / busy street
  • Billboards are unattractive
  • Signage and awnings are not consistent
  • Poor maintenance / upkeep
  • Looks rundown / dirty
  • No entryway presence / sense of arrival
  • Large buildings with narrow sidewalks

Ground Floor Activity: Images with Mixed Ratings

Distinguishing Factors + Comment Commonalities

  • Modern / contemporary buildings and entrances do not fit neighborhood character and history
  • Overabundance of glass make buildings appear too modern; like an office building or hotel
  • Too much distance between building and street
  • Generic / suburban feel
  • Over-scaled / prominent sign (Q26)
  • Corporate aesthetic feels unwelcoming


  • Potted plants
  • Diversity of landscaping
  • Integration of stone / brick walkways
  • Color accents
  • Roof details / overhangs
  • Patios are welcoming

Concluding Statements

When considering what type of building design / ground level detail is appropriate in Lincoln Square, it is essential to take into consideration the following four factors:

(1) Neighborhood Setting: What is the built and natural environment like?
(2) Physical Location: What street is it on? Is it near the train?
(3) Built Surroundings: What are the aesthetics / scale / setbacks of neighboring structures?
(4) Character: Consider the existing character and longstanding history of Lincoln Square.

Top 10 Poll Findings

1. Lincoln Square is a historic, Chicago neighborhood and these roots must be reinforced and preserved in the face of new development.

2. Modern buildings with extensive glass were generally poorly rated. Participants noted these buildings can be attractive but are not the right fit or aesthetic for Lincoln Square.

3. Masonry buildings that blend in scale with their surrounding structures are preferred and connect back to the neighborhood character of Lincoln Square.

4. Adaptive retrofits, renovations, and historic preservation of architecturally significant buildings was generally encouraged and praised throughout poll comments.

5. Signage and awnings need to be cohesive, interesting and attractive.

6. The streetscape should integrate nature including a balance of greenery, planters, and/or mature trees that provide shade.

7. Sidewalk patios and pedestrian plazas are much loved and highly desired. They connect back to Lincoln Square’s historic roots and are reminiscent of European towns. However, sidewalk patios should not hinder pedestrian mobility.

8. Height to setback ratio must be considered with regards to new development. Generally speaking, the taller the building the more setback required to make the ground floor environment hospitable, not overbearing, to the pedestrian.

9. The interplay of ground level details is important i.e. awnings, street lighting, façade lighting, welcoming entryway details, patio space, greenery, planters, windows, architectural details, retail uses, width of sidewalk, etc.

10. Public art and murals that enhance neighborhood character and history should be considered at key locations and blank facades in Lincoln Square.

Next Steps: How will this information be used?

A component of the Lincoln Square Master Plan is a set of design guidelines that will be used to communicate the community's vision for new building developments. The findings of the poll will be used to develop such! When it comes to design, there will naturally be differences in opinions and preferences. However, we were overwhelmed by the commonalities in feedback expressed; especially in regards to the concluding statements and the findings noted above. Thank you again for your extensive input and thoughtful responses.More to come... stay tuned!