Master Plan for the Town of LaFox, Illinois

LaFox, Illinois

The vast majority of the United States’ metropolitan edge is currently built in low-density, disconnected sprawl. Now, in LaFox, Illinois, students are envisioning a new low-rise agrarian railroad town—with greater density than Chicago—surrounding an existing station. By taking advantage of an opportunity area, this proposal offers a refreshingly pragmatic alternative to conventional development.

Fertile farms threatened by suburbanization surround the site, which is linked to Chicago’s regional transportation system. LaFox is now a hamlet occupied by an east-west freight and commuter rail line, a large parking lot, scattered light industrial buildings, and a cluster of houses along LaFox Road.

LaFox Plan LaFox city plaza
The development follows universal design principles with this city plaza. Source: University of Notre Dame, School of Architecture.

The proposed town would occupy 1,240 acres (nearly two square miles), and accommodate 25,000-35,000 residents. LaFox maximizes healthy lifestyle options through transportation choices and connections to nature. All residents would live within a 20-minute walk to trains to Chicago, other towns, and hundreds of thousands of jobs.

In the plan, well-defined streets provide pleasant walking and bicycling, and a tree-lined perimeter path connects joggers and cyclists to nearby recreational trails. Parks, squares, street trees, and nearby forests absorb carbon and encourage a healthy lifestyle.

Existing rail connections, a form-based code, and an innovative tax structure promote entrepreneurial activity and dwelling choice.

LaFox Plan LaFox overview
An overview of the development area. Source: University of Notre Dame, School of Architecture.

In an agricultural region defined by large-scale corn and soybean agriculture, other agrarian interests can be satisfied with community garden plots and nearby 5- to 40-acre cash crop farms and orchards. A centrally located farmers’ market would allow all residents to enjoy locally grown produce.

The students proposed that Kane County’s property tax assessment system be replaced with a Land Value Tax that would tax only land and not buildings or other improvements. Empty parcels would be taxed as high as developed land, encouraging efficient land use.

LaFox’s rail line ships both raw materials and finished goods, which creates opportunities for local manufacturing. Special industrial districts are planned for the blocks where trains enter and leave town, with space for rail sidings behind loft buildings.

Top photo: An aerial of the development area. Source: University of Notre Dame, School of Architecture.

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