East St. Louis Action Research Project (ESLARP)
The East St. Louis Action Research Project (ESLARP) is a cooperatively managed resident-driven service learning community assistance and development program that has served to revitalize the distressed urban areas of East St. Louis, Illinois for more than fifteen years. ESLARP emphasizes the relationship of the design professions to grassroots community stabilization and development efforts. It is a reciprocal learning effort—a partnership based upon mutual respect and commitment. Members of the East St. Louis community and members of the university community bring knowledge, skills, and resources together to advance a development agenda set by local residents.
The program began in 1987 when State Representative Wyvetter H. Younge requested technical assistance from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign for the legislative district containing East St. Louis. The University responded with a commitment to support faculty and student research projects in East St. Louis, and the School of Architecture, together with the Departments of Landscape Architecture and Urban and Regional Planning, created the Urban Extension Minority Access Program. The first product of this new program was the School of Architecture’s East St. Louis Revitalization Project. Faculty and students focused on large-scale initiatives such as riverfront development, street lighting, industrial and railroad redevelopment, storm water retention, and the construction of a modular housing factory. Then, in the fall of 1990, ESLARP was initiated with a pilot neighborhood-planning workshop.
Since 1990, ESLARP activities and accomplishments have been an important part of the growing neighborhood revitalization movement. Aided by the university’s instructional, research, and public service resources, ESLARP is achieving notable results in communities where residents are mobilizing to address current social, economic, and environmental problems.In the spring of 2000 ESLARP received the prestigious President’s Award from the American Institute of Certified Planners. In 2003, two ESLARP projects led by interdisciplinary teams including School of Architecture faculty members received national attention. In 2004, Envisioning the Future of the South End Neighborhood, a class developed and taught jointly by Lynne M. Dearborn, Assistant Professor of Architecture, Stacy Harwood, Assistant Professor of Urban and Regional Planning and Laura J. Lawson, Assistant Professor of Landscape Architecture, received the American Institute of Architects (AIA) Education Honor Award for excellence in course development and architectural teaching at the annual meeting of the Association of Collegiate Schools of Architecture (ACSA).