The old affordable-housing model is being thrown out as thoughtfully designed homes for low-income families are fast replacing the drab, concrete boxes of the 1960s and 1970s. Douglass Square reflects that shift.

Situated near downtown Champaign, Ill., the 50-unit, mixed-income project sits on a nine-acre infill parcel that previously was home to barracks-style affordable public housing that was “just tossed on the site,” according to architect Jeff Bone. “Our goal was to create a neighborhood.”

To do this, Bone and project architect Jack Schroeder stipulated rear service alleys and parking. This move eliminated the need for front curb cuts and created pedestrian-friendly sidewalks unbroken by cars. They then designed a series of small houses—single-family, duplexes, town-houses, and four-plexes—that are marked by simple forms and a lively color palette.

Though clearly rooted in Midwestern regional vernacular, the lines are clean and well defined. Steep gable roofs and front porches give each home a small-town feel.

In addition to green spaces adjacent to the houses, a centrally located community building provides play areas as well as common spaces and laundry facilities for residents.

See all 2007 Builder's Choice Award Winners

Category: Affordable-housing community;

Entrant/Architect: Landon Bone Baker, Chicago;

Builder: Frank Baxter General Contractor, Fort Madison, Iowa;

Developer: Brinshore Development, Northbrook, Ill.;

Landscape architect: McKay Landscape Architects, Chicago

Learn more about markets featured in this article: Chicago, IL.