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Metropolitan Water Reclamation District of Greater Chicago

Green infrastructure on campus: an education in stormwater management

College campuses set ideas in motion for the future, and there are few settings better than outside the classroom to engage and encourage sustainable land management practices to protect the planet. This is the case of Arthington Mall Plaza at the University of Illinois at Chicago (UIC), where the MWRD found a worthy site and partner to protect the campus from flooding in an attractive public setting.

A product of the MWRD’s Green Infrastructure Partnership Program, the Arthington Mall Plaza outside UIC’s Student Center West near 828 S. Wolcott Ave. offers UIC students a vibrant outdoor meeting place designed to absorb more stormwater. 

More information:

Press release

UIC Green Infrastructure Project – red sign
Arthington Mall Plaza at UIC stretches between Wolcott and Damen Avenues with 37,000 square feet of permeable pavement and rain gardens.

Multiple partners, multiple benefits

The UIC Arthington Mall Plaza was completed in 2020, and its opening was commemorated a year later as students returned for a new school year. It is a joint effort between UIC, the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation and the MWRD to promote using green infrastructure as an effective means of stormwater management. The Arthington Mall project was selected during the MWRD’s annual call for green infrastructure projects in 2017. The MWRD contributed $242,000 towards the green infrastructure pieces of the project, which provide a total design retention capacity of 228,311 gallons per rain event. The overall project, which involved non-green infrastructure work (e.g., new lighting, a wood platform seating area, etc.), cost just under $2 million.

 UIC Green Infrastructure Project – students enjoying time outside at Arthington Mall


Two city blocks of green infrastructure

The mall features 37,000 square feet of permeable pavement and rain gardens. These green infrastructure amenities run for nearly two entire city blocks with a permeable parking lot, new LED lighting, seating areas and rain gardens packed with native plants. Monarch butterflies and other pollinators thrive under 24 mature, healthy honey-locust trees. 

 UIC Green Infrastructure Project – permeable pavers at Arthington Mall Plaza


A first in sustainability

Because of all these enhancements, Arthington Mall became the first Sustainable SITES-certified university space in Illinois. The Sustainable SITES Initiative offers a comprehensive rating system that evaluates and certifies sustainable landscapes. The program measures performance and elevates value for public and private sector landscapes and outdoor spaces, similar to the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) rating system. SITES supports nature-based solutions, prioritizes biodiversity and mitigates climate change while conserving resources, improving public health and providing economic benefits.   

New home for pollinators and stormwater

Arthington Mall is a sustainable, open and common area for people and pollinators alike. New seating, permeable pavers, native plants and rain gardens create an inviting outdoor oasis around the year. In addition, the mall includes a sculpture entitled Tussle, which was designed by local artist and UIC alumni, Ted Sitting Crow Garner, a member of the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe. 

 UIC Green Infrastructure Project – rain garden


Calling all partners: Go green and join the MWRD 

The MWRD’s Green Infrastructure Partnership Program seeks to partner with local communities and public agencies throughout Cook County to fund and build green infrastructure projects. These projects vary in size and scope and can include roadside bioswales and rain gardens, green roofs, permeable pavement alleys, and green streetscapes. Green Infrastructure projects capture and manage stormwater where it falls to keep it out of sewers that can be overwhelmed during heavy storms, leading to flooding and polluted runoff that can harm waterways.