The Metropolitan Planning Council awards plans both grand and tactical at evening event - Metropolitan Planning Council

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The Metropolitan Planning Council awards plans both grand and tactical at evening event

(Chicago) … The Metropolitan Planning Council (MPC) awarded its Burnham Award for Excellence in Planning to the Forest Preserves of Cook County for its “Next Century Conservation Plan,” and recognized four winners of the 2014 Placemaking challenge “Old Place New Tricks”—Rogers Park Business Alliance, BUILD, Inc., I Grow Chicago and the South East Chicago Commission—at a Sept. 22 event in Chicago.

“Planning is powerful in all its forms and at every scale,” said MPC President MarySue Barrett. “That idea has been at the heart of the Metropolitan Planning Council's work for eight decades. Tonight we celebrate the leaders in our region who recognize the power of planning and take the initiative to do something that makes the Chicago region a better place to live and work.”

Burnham Award

Since 1988, MPC has recognized visionary plans that achieve demonstrable results through the annual Burnham Award for Excellence in Planning, named in honor of Daniel H. Burnham, creator of the “1909 Plan of Chicago.” Winning plans must address at least one of four categories: creating more livable communities, addressing human capital, improving regional mobility and making government more efficient.

The “Next Century Conservation Plan” created a framework for the Forest Preserves of Cook County to increase public use and involvement by engaging and educating residents, preserving the environment and providing regional economic benefits. The plan has led the Forest Preserves to launch job training initiatives, make significant accessibility improvements to their six nature centers and implement a summer season Pace bus service to Brookfield Zoo and surrounding open space—all of which led MPC’s Burnham Award Selection Committee to choose the Forest Preserves of Cook County as the 2014 Burnham Award winner.

At an MPC event on Sept. 22, Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle accepted the award on behalf of the Forest Preserves.

“The Next Century Conservation Plan is an ambitious and inspiring blueprint for the future of the Forest Preserves,” said Forest Preserves of Cook County President Toni Preckwinkle. “We’re honored to be recognized by the Metropolitan Planning Council, who share our belief that wise planning provides the best means of ensuring our region’s prosperity and sustainability.”

To learn more about the Burnham Award, including a complete list of past winners, visit

Placemaking challenge awards

MPC’s 2014 Placemaking challenge, “Old Place New Tricks,” encouraged community groups across the Chicago region to temporarily transform an underused neighborhood space for one weekend in August. MPC kicked off the challenge by offering a free “Placemaking 101” training in July. Sixteen of the organizations and individuals who attended the training chose to activate an underused public place in their neighborhoods the weekend of Aug. 15 to 17, with activities ranging from peace celebrations to potlucks, all designed to bring neighbors together to mingle, relax and enjoy their communities.

Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Illinois generously sponsored “Old Place New Tricks,” including three $1,000 prizes to help the following groups continue to create shared places that promote health and well-being in their communities:

  • BUILD, Inc., in Austin, organized “Hoops in the Hood,” repurposing a space where gang activity is prevalent. While basketball was the main attraction, music, food, face painting, dancing and drawing kept all 160 participants engaged.
  • In Englewood, I Grow Chicago reclaimed a site formerly used to store weapons and hosted a community dinner. The group also hosts a summer camp and yoga classes on the site.
  • In Bronzeville, the South East Chicago Commission organized Bronzeville Bikes Spoketacular in a vacant lot near the 51st Street Green Line station. The event provided educational resources on biking and promoted local businesses.

“Blue Cross and Blue Shield is committed to active, healthy lifestyles,” said Clarita G. Santos, director, Community Health Initiatives, Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Illinois. “Each of these groups did an excellent job incorporating active components into their events.”

Groupon Grassroots provided each “Old Place New Tricks” participant with a crowdfunding platform and granted a $1,000 “Groupon Love Local” award to the Rogers Park Business Alliance’s “Sandia, Loteria!” installation. The Alliance activated a long-vacant lot with food and games of Loteria, similar to Bingo. Groupon’s Chicago team also participated in the challenge, activating a space close to their Near North offices.

“From coaching the participants in crowdfunding to taking part in the challenge ourselves, Old Place New Tricks has been a truly transformational experience,” said Patty Morrissey, head of social innovation, Groupon. “Congratulations to the Rogers Park Business Alliance and all of the participants for your excellent work. Your dedication to your communities is inspiring.”

EveryBlock and Comcast created a web site,, and provided promotional support to help MPC and the challenge participants publicize their activities.

“In the age of do-it-yourself, it’s been exciting to be part of this challenge to promote each group’s creativity and ingenuity,” said Matthew Summy, vice president of external and government affairs, Comcast Greater Chicago Region. “Comcast and EveryBlock are honored to have helped these groups share their powerful stories with their communities and people across Chicago.”

For more information about the Placemaking challenge and Placemaking in general, as well as contact information for the winners, please contact MPC Associate Kara Riggio, at 312-863-6022,; or MPC Communications Director Mandy Burrell Booth, at 312-863-6018, or


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For more than 80 years, the Metropolitan Planning Council (MPC) has made the Chicago region a better place to live and work by partnering with businesses, communities and governments to address the area's toughest planning and development challenges. MPC works to solve today's urgent problems while consistently thinking ahead to prepare the region for the needs of tomorrow. Read more about our work »

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