Building Tomorrow: Celebrating great planning with The 606, Mayor Emanuel and more - Metropolitan Planning Council

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Building Tomorrow: Celebrating great planning with The 606, Mayor Emanuel and more

All photos by Gretchen Baria, Moonhouse Productions

George Sorich of NORR, our 2015 Burnham Award sponsor, stands with our winners (from left to right): Beth White, Mayor Rahm Emanuel, Ben Helphand, Mike Kelly, Rebekah Scheinfeld and MPC President MarySue Barrett.

Plans aren’t made to sit on shelves. They’re made to transform cities and regions and make residents’ lives better. The city streets we walk every day and the water pipes that bring fresh water to our tap and the homes we live in and the transit systems or roads we travel are all built on the backs of plans.

On Tuesday, Sept. 29, we at the Metropolitan Planning Council (MPC) gathered with fellow planners, partners, friends and Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel to celebrate The 606, winner of the 2015 Burnham Award for Excellence in Planning. Given since 1988, the Burnham Award celebrates a visionary plan that has resulted in demonstrated, positive results.

Daniel Burnham, the author of the acclaimed 1909 Plan of Chicago, wrote:

“...A noble, logical diagram once recorded will not die, but long after we are gone be a living thing...Remember that our sons and our grandsons are going to do things that would stagger us. Let your watchword be order and your beacon beauty.”

The winner of this year’s Burnham Award for Excellence in Planning, The 606 system of trail and parks, embodies this vision for many compelling reasons. Connecting six parks and four Chicago neighborhoods—Wicker Park, Bucktown, Humboldt Park and Logan Square—The 606 also represents a unique collaboration between government, civic and community leaders. Beginning as a seed in the mind of community groups like Friends of the Bloomingdale Trail and funded by civic visionaries led by The Trust for Public Land and The Chicago Community Trust, The 606 was brought to fruition by Mayor Emanuel, who has pledged every child in the city will live within a 10-minute walk of a park or playground. The 606 brings us closer to that reality.

Mayor Rahm Emanuel accepts the 2015 Burnham Award for Excellence in Planning for The 606.

“The 606 is an incredibly peaceful asset—and it could not have been done without friends and allies,” said Mayor Emanuel. “Once again we are putting the ‘public’ back in ‘public space’, from Northerly Island to the Riverwalk downtown to The 606 trail, where people of all walks of life can come together.”

Questions of accessibility and affordability in the communities The 606 touches are important. MPC looks to the same government, business and community leaders who made The 606 a reality to make sure it continues to bring Chicagoans together.

George Sorich, a principal at NORR, presented the awards to the winners: Beth White of The Trust for Public Land, Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel, Mike Kelly and Bryan Traubert of the Chicago Park District and Ben Helphand of Friends of the Bloomingdale Trail.

"We are putting the ‘public’ back in ‘public space’" —Mayor Rahm Emanuel

The beauty of the trail and the parks, and the connection they create between four previously unconnected neighborhoods, speak to not only Daniel Burnham’s vision but also Chicago’s motto: urbs in horto, city in a garden. The stunning finished product would not have been possible without The Trust for Public Land, a nonprofit organization devoted to the creation and preservation of open space. Beth White, Chicago area office director for the Trust, was on hand to accept the $2,500 cash award. Apart from fundraising for The 606, The Trust for Public Land manages community engagement and outreach, long-term park planning, communications and other crucial aspects of the project.

"The 606 was more than a decade in the making and required the hard work and expertise of hundreds of architects, engineers, urban planners, artists, government officials, construction crews, landscapers and community activists," White said. "We are so gratified by how the public has enthusiastically embraced The 606. As land conservation experts, The Trust for Public Land is proud to play a leadership role on this project, doing what we do best: bringing together diverse partners, activating the community and delivering a grand park that is set to serve the people of Chicago and our visitors for another hundred years—and beyond."

Chicago has a history of reinvention; after the Great Chicago Fire of 1871, our city’s leaders chose to rebuild the city from the ground up. The 606 has a similar history. The Bloomingdale Trail, centerpiece of The 606, used to be a railroad spur. Over time, freight flows changed and trains stopped running on the line in 2001. For years it sat in disrepair, until visionaries imagined a way to reinvent this unique, linear space. Now, what was once a physical barrier has become a beautiful mechanism for uniting Chicagoans.

For all of these reasons and others, The 606 is the deserving winner of the 2015 Burnham Award for Excellence in Planning.

Beth White, Chicago area office director for The Trust for Public Land, was the recipient of the $2,500 prize.

But MPC’s event didn’t only celebrate vision past and present; we also highlighted the future: two six-month fellowships, through which promising young city leaders have a chance to work at MPC for a stipend. The Allard Fellowship, named for longtime MPC President Jean Allard and generously seeded by Sonnenschein, Nath & Rosenthal (now Dentons) in her honor before Allard passed away in 2012, is designed to attract young talent not currently in a position to volunteer at MPC. The Wayfinding Fellowship, supported by a fund generously seeded by longtime MPC Board member James Mann, is designed to cultivate and retain a well-regarded MPC research assistant. Our very first Wayfinding fellow, Kate Calabra, said a few words about what the fellowship meant to her:

“My time at MPC, both as a Research Assistant and as a Wayfinding Fellow, has helped shape my professional career. I’m thankful the fellowship surrounded me with talented professionals internally and externally, including aldermen and even mayors.”

Kate is now an assistant at the American Planning Association, where she helps with a K-12 curriculum that teaches kids about urban planning and how they can help shape their own community.

Kate Calabra, our first Wayfinding Fellow, is now working at the American Planning Association.

And finally, we took a moment to toast the 100th birthday of The Chicago Community Trust, which was instrumental in making The 606 happen, awarding $1.75 million since 2007 to the project through the Searle Funds. The Trust has also been a key partner for MPC since our beginning, 81 years ago. Today, they are our partner and support our work on Accelerate Illinois, a campaign for better transportation funding; incentives for transit-oriented development; the Calumet Stormwater Collaborative; Great Rivers Chicago; and more.

Congrats to The Trust, and here’s to another 100 years!

MPC President MarySue Barrett toasts The Chicago Community Trust's 100th birthday with Chief Officer of Programs & Strategy Integration Peggy Davis.

The event was one to remember; we enjoyed a fantastic video of The 606 by Streetsblog Chicago, sipped delicious brews by Revolution Brewing and enjoyed transcendental live music. We were thrilled to celebrate all of these exciting and promising aspects of our city and region, and we look forward to a future full of planning, community connections and beauty.

An extra special thanks to our sponsors who made this night possible!

Diller Scofidio + Renfro for sponsoring the event

NORR for sponsoring the 2015 Burnham Award

Revolution Brewing for providing libations

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