Challenge: The 28th CDC contracted our team to design a building that would catalyze the revitalization of the MLK corridor. Referencing our passion for urban redevelopment, we used urbanist principles to create a building that would encourage pedestrians to walk the boulevard.


In 2008 the 28th Legislative District Community Development Corporation (28th CDC) contracted our team to design a new building on MLK Boulevard. Their mission is to "revitalize targeted neighborhoods by improving the appearance of the community through rehabilitation of deteriorating or below the standard houses or new constructions." Their hope was that, by introducing a mixed-use building in this location, they would infuse the MLK corridor with brand new businesses and affordable housing, jumpstarting the neighborhood's revitalization.

A long shot of the MLK building as designed by David Barlew, Architect. The angle shows off the reliefs in the facade created by the staggered front.
A view of the MLK corridor from the corner on Houston St.

Designing with Urbanist Principles

One of our core passions as design professionals is assisting in the revitalization of urban areas. 11 years later, the MLK corridor has seen significant transformation with new, local businesses and gorgeous murals completed by respected, local artists. At the time, the boulevard was an under-utilized area. In our design, we used urbanist principles to prioritize the well-being of the pedestrian over the convenience of the motorist.

Street Edge

When a building is sited to the rear of a lot with a parking lot in front, it's clear that motorists are the priority. But, when buildings are built close to the street, providing a defined street edge and lighting, pedestrians tend to feel safer. The MLK building was constructed on the lot line, and we negotiated special permissions from the city to avoid a suburban style loading dock and dumpster pad. With the assistance of EPB. we called for the installation of pedestrian lighting.


We designed the front facade of the building to step forwards and backwards. That creates:

  • Reliefs in the structure so that it doesn't feel like one, long, monolithic wall.
  • Recessed entries for cover and safety.
The corner of the MLK building showing the pedestrian lighting installed by EPB and the sconce lighting on the building itself.
The corner of the MLK building. Note the pedestrian lighting installed by EPB and the sconce lighting on the facades.

Next Steps

With the success of the MLK building and the growth of the corridor, the potential for a second phase of the redevelopment project exists: a new building on the adjoining vacant lot. Such smart infill development will continue to attract more businesses and residents to this revitalizing area.

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