Marillac Social Center

Chicago, IL

Bringing a lively spark to social services

When Marillac St. Vincent Family Services asked WJW to design a space to accommodate their expanding Youth and Family programs, we saw an opportunity not only to create a meaningful space but to also adaptively re-use the mostly empty two-story building that had previously housed a thrift store and a food pantry.

With support from a DCEO grant and other additional sources of funding, Marillac was able to commission a reimagining of the existing building as well as a new addition. Early in the design process, WJW held a design charrette with the owner and stakeholder teams to assess needs, goals and aspirations for an extremely tight site. Presented with options that imagined the new spaces both with and without a full-size basketball court, which would place considerable demands on space, the owners and stakeholders offered a story that re-centered the process. The organization had sold a building which housed a basketball court years before — and everyone involved had regretted the loss ever since. Bringing basketball back to Marillac St. Vincent became a key goal of the renovation, and so an additional one-story space was conceived to house a full-size basketball court and stage. 

Renovations brought color and a clean, modern sensibility to the building, creating spaces to accommodate the organization’s growing Youth and Family services including Project Hope and Hope Junior, which work to prevent teen pregnancy and serve teen parents. The space hosts substantial fine arts and after school programming, and the expanded food pantry allows clients to wait indoors and shop for items in a market setting. The new addition, with a stage to invite creative pursuits and a basketball court open not only to Marillac programs but also for community games, restores the beloved basketball program, creates a hub for interaction with the community and a welcome buzz of excitement around the organization.

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