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Inspiration Kitchens

Wheeler Kearns Architects

Shared By

katie_gerfen, Hanley Wood

Project Name

Inspiration Kitchens

Project Status


Year Completed



7,800 sq. feet

Construction Cost



Inspiration Corporation


  • General Contractor: The Hearthland Construction Group
  • Construction Manager: IFF
  • Interior Designer: Wheeler Kearns Architects
  • Landscape Architect: Wolff Landscape
  • Civil Engineer: Terra Engineering
  • Structural Engineer: Thornton Tomasetti
  • : dbHMS
  • Electrical Engineer: dbHMS
  • Plumbing Engineer: dbHMS
  • Lighting Designer: Wheeler Kearns Architects
  • Threshold Acoustics

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Project Description

From the Architects:

Project Description
The project involved the renovation and adaptive reuse of a 1906 single story building and the improvement of three (3) vacant lots in the City’s East Garfield Park neighborhood. This 7,300 sq. ft. facility has an 80 seat restaurant that serves subsidized meals to working poor families and market rate meals to the general public; a combination service, catering and training kitchen from which a 13 week food service training program is conducted, a meeting room/classroom and administrative/social service offices which support Inspiration Corporation’s community outreach programs and provides individualized case management services to past and current students. The LEED Gold facility has a sustainable garden that supplies fresh herbs and vegetables for the restaurant and serves as an educational resource for students, local school children and the community.

Inspiration Kitchen’s-Garfield Park is Inspiration Corporations second location for food service training and social enterprise restaurant. Each year the restaurant will serve over 3,000 meals at no cost to working poor families in East Garfield Park and the surrounding communities and will enroll over 64 students, many of whom reside in the community, in its food service training program, representing over $700,00 in new earning potential for the community.

Community involvement
At various stages during the planning and design of Inspiration Kitchen’s Garfield Park, Inspiration Corporation along with the architect presented to numerous community groups such as the East Garfield Park Healthy Communities Committee, the East Garfield Park Land Use and Open Space Committee and the East Garfield Park Housing and Design Review Committee. Additionally, the architect created a blog to seek input and reaction from all stakeholders within the community and Inspiration Corporation’s leadership. The blog which included preliminary plans, perspectives, questions and photographs (depicting the planned atmosphere for the building) was presented at each community meeting, printed handouts containing the blog material were distributed at these meetings and copies were given to the Garfield Park Conservatory Alliance, who facilitated most of these interactions with the community, for distribution.

At all community presentations, residents voiced their excitement for the planned facility, as a healthy eatery in a community in desperate need of nutritious options, a quiet and safe space for community meetings/events and as a learning center. Community members had some concerns which ranged from the porosity of the site and building to possible employment opportunities for local businesses and trades persons during the construction of the project. These specific concerns were addressed by maintaining an open site with a public green space connected to the restaurant with outdoor seating and restoring the large window opening to the street. The general contractor, Heartland Construction Group actively solicited local businesses for bids during construction and local laborers were encouraged to seek employment. During construction the general contractor, at his costs, repaired miscellaneous items for several community members surrounding the project.

Project’s architectural design response to the neighborhood context
Neighboring Garfield Park and the Garfield Park Conservatory offers a unique opportunity in the design of the building's approach (landscaping, parking and entrance) and amplifying the sites limited open space by visually connecting across Lake Street to the park. To accomplish this ornamental edible gardens and trees were planted as transitional zones and the large openings on the building's existing street facade were maintained to create visual connections to the context, which is unique to this area. At night, these openings function as light boxes which animate and illuminate the façade and street. The users experience begins with this facade of windows then passing through the western garden which spatially serves as a decompression zone before entering the building.

The desire to retain these large opening and the historically masonry façade was contradictory to a major challenge, that of mitigating the noise generated by the elevated rail system on Lake Street. The project addresses this by reinforcing the exterior wall thermally (with the exclusion of the dining room which was left exposed), installing acoustical and thermally superior windows units in all exterior openings and retaining the existing roof substrate for acoustical mass on the roof. Together these components work to create an acoustically neutral interior.

Project’s architectural design response to those served by the facility
Both diner and potential student enter the facility into the enjoyable social environment of the dining room and are either directed to a table in the dining room or towards the privacy of the social services offices in the rear of the building. In organizing the program elements, a conscious decision was made to use public spaces such the dining room and kitchen as a filter for the private social services component offered by the facility. Additionally, the existing large window openings on the north, south and east facades were maintained providing pedestrians with unobstructed views to the activities of the dining room and kitchen. Diners, students and staff benefit from these windows with views to the park and natural daylight while eating, learning and working. This transparency demonstrates the facility’s inviting and open attitude towards community.

The design maintained the existing sloped sawtooth monitors, restoring its function of introducing daylight to the building interior and use of the increased height below them gained additional floor area with an upper mezzanine for the agency’s future staff or program growth.

Project's architectural design enhance to the overall development of the neighborhood
Prior to its current use the building housed a company which manufactured index centers which were used in metal working lathes, and most recently a poorly maintained storage facility with no functioning utilities, the three (3) lots west of the building were vacant- overgrown with vegetation and used to store dilapidated vehicles. By repurposing the building into a restaurant, training and social services resource center Inspiration Kitchen’s-Garfield Park seeks to address the following goals identified in the New Communities Program Quality of Life plan for East Garfield Park:

Point 2.2 Develop strategies for the re-use of vacant lots in East Garfield Park.
Inspiration Corporation purchased the vacant lots at 3512 through 3520 West Lake St. The western most lot was developed as a garden with ornamental edibles which are served in the restaurant and has an on-site composting area for vegetable matter. The inner lots were developed to include six (6) on-site parking spaces with a stormwater retention reservoir below and a vegetated trellis providing shading from the sun and screening from the Dining room.

Point 4.2 Redevelop Lake Street as a unique mixed-use “Green Corridor.”
For over a mile to the east, not a single street tree exists on Lake Street. Inspiration Corporation planted five street trees in front of the facility and as well as vines and shrubbery to fill the perimeter fence panels creating a sympathetic link to the park across the street. The building is easily accessible by public transportation- located 0.1 miles from the CTA Green Line Conservatory/Central Park Drive station and 0.2 miles from the #82 bus stop, additionally bicycle racks are available for diners, students and staff. The 2,000 sq ft kitchen garden is a resource for health and nutrition education.

Point 6.2 Emphasize art, culture and greening as core attributes of the neighborhood
Inspiration Corporation’s hope is that the walls in the public space will be used by the community as a gallery. Art lighting, shelving and hanging locations have been provided in the restaurant to feature artwork created within the community.

Sustainable materials or systems
The project includes numerous environmental initiatives in order to achieve greater energy efficiency and to increase the use renewable energy sources. The project expects to improve energy performance by at least 21% over a high performance building as defined by ASHRAE 90.1 - 2007. Building envelope improvements include energy-efficient walls using closed cell sprayed polyurethane foam insulation, which will provide a superior air, vapor, and thermal barrier. A super-insulated sprayed polyurethane roof and spectrally selective glass windows further the building’s superior envelope design.

Daylighting will be achieved through the reintroduction of saw-tooth north facing skylights which will incorporate high performance glass to boost insulating values. Daylighting will be incorporated into 75% of the spaces and views into 90% of the regularly occupied spaces are possible given the dimensions of the building.

Energy efficient equipment, such as Energy Star kitchen equipment, a kitchen exhaust hood with variable speed fans and integral smoke and thermal sensors, an energy-efficient HVAC system, integral CO2 sensors and modulating exhaust will dramatically reduce energy use.

The project incorporated renewable energy by installing solar thermal panels on the roof for producing domestic and process hot water for the service and catering kitchens. The renewable energy harvested will comprise 7 percent of the total energy use of the building.

The renovation re-used at least 75% reuse of existing walls, floors and roof. At least 75% of construction waste was recycled or salvaged through the practice of construction waste management.
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