Uptown Consortium Taps International Firm for Next Phase of Corridor

Uptown is unique—and valuable—for its convergence of community, education, research and healthcare in one prime location. As the Uptown Innovation Corridor enters its next phase of development, the Uptown Consortium has enlisted the services of global planning and design firm Sasaki to guide the project to success.

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The firm will serve as the master planner for the project, helping to craft a clear strategy to move the project forward.

Fred Merrill, senior planner and principal at Sasaki.

Fred Merrill, senior planner and principal at Sasaki.

“We’re kind of like a quarterback,” said Fred Merrill, a senior planner and principal at Sasaki who will oversee the firm’s involvement in the UIC project. “Our job is to bring a broad and deep vision to ensure a clear strategy is in place to maximize Uptown’s unique opportunities to build an innovation hub that serves the community best.”

Merrill was the lead planner with Sasaki when the firm first helped draft the original Uptown master plan five years ago. He’ll continue in his lead role with Sasaki as the group takes its history with the project, combined with its experience in designing world-class innovation districts, to carry the project forward and refine the plan. The firm’s past success stories include:

  • Seaport Square – Boston, Massachusetts
  • Yuqiao Innovation Cluster – Shanghai, China
  • Samsong Research and Technology District – Goyang, Korea
  • Downtown Raleigh Experience – Raleigh, North Carolina
  • Lake Nona Medical City – Orlando, Florida

Merrill notes the commonalities among innovation districts that make them such magnets for growth.

“Innovation districts like UIC are built around anchor institutions that provide the raw materials—creativity, ingenuity, research and ideas—that, when partnered with the community and industry, create something everyone wants to be a part of,” said Merrill.

Yet innovation doesn’t just happen on its own, and innovation districts certainly aren’t built in a day. That’s why Sasaki will be a valuable, long-term partner that ensures new projects ladder up to the overall plan for the Corridor.

“I think we're coming in at an opportune time to build on what’s been done so far and zoom out a little bit to put together a bigger framework, a vision, for the Innovation Corridor,” said Merrill.

While the Uptown Consortium serves to bring the voices of the anchor districts and neighborhoods to the planning table, Sasaki will transform those ideas and needs into a clear, actionable strategy.

“A lot of places don't have an Uptown Consortium,” Merrill said. “In fact, we're often recommending to our clients that they need to create an organization like Uptown to be the glue that holds everything together and has a bigger picture.”


At Sasaki, we believe in the transformative power of place. Places transcend physical spaces, becoming the context and the content of our experience of life. For over sixty years, Sasaki has brought together the best of landscape architecture, planning, urban design, architecture, interior design, civil engineering, graphic design, place branding, and data science to shape the places in which we live. Out of our Boston and Shanghai offices we are defining the contours of place and redefining what’s possible along the way. Today, we are a diverse practice of 270 professionals who share a singular passion for creating spaces and places around the world that prove human potential.