Metropolitan Planning Council
MPC staff at our 2015 summer retreat. We're at the Ping Tom Park Boathouse in Chinatown.
2015 was a busy but satisfying year here at the Metropolitan Planning Council. We launched new initiatives and found good homes for others we'd incubated over many years. We held a record number of events with a record number of attendees, and an annual luncheon that raised more money than any in our history.
Through it all, unsurprisingly, we learned some important lessons. And, being planners, we all have even bigger plans for this year. Here, a few MPCers weigh in on what they learned in 2015, and what they look forward to in 2016.
MarySue Barrett, MPC president
My New Year’s resolution is for MPC to do everything it can to get Chicagoland back on a healthy, balanced growth trajectory. Our “Grow Chicago” agenda starts with educating all of us about how we stack up. It’s not pretty: Minneapolis is a third of our size but growing five times as fast; Nashville grew as much yesterday as Chicago did in a whole year; and Houston is nipping at our heels for the #3 slot of largest American cities.
Being an optimist, I believe this compelling data is not meant to depress but to inspire all of us. Metropolitan Chicago has all the ingredients to be at the head of the pack on equitable growth. Those ingredients include committed leaders who work cross-sector, a transit network with available land nearby, a tech and entrepreneurial sector adding innovation to our economy and much more. My hope is that 2016 is the year we put the ingredients together in a recipe for growth that benefits all.
Mandy Burrell, MPC communications director
In 2015, MPC worked hard to combine original research with top-quality content to examine metropolitan Chicago’s slow population growth. Why our region is not growing as much as our peers—and how uneven our growth has been, in terms of what communities in our region are experiencing it and which are not—has been capturing people’s attention. We plan to delve more deeply into this unsolved issue in 2016.
Whether they’re leading up work to solve urban flooding, improve regional public transportation, re-imagine Chicago’s rivers or balance our region’s housing options, everyone at MPC is contributing to making our region the kind of place that businesses want to locate and people of all walks of life want to call home. I look forward to working with every one of my colleagues in 2016 to tell this story.
Sarah Cardona, MPC associate
In 2016, as I enter my first full calendar year at MPC, my resolution is to blog more! I have always loved to write, and I want to utilize blogging as a vehicle through which I can explore my thinking around complex issues like preparing for climate change and better managing our natural resources. These topics are at the heart of MPC’s work and my own interests in sustainable growth in our Chicagoland communities.
Josh Ellis, MPC director
My resolution in 2016 is a little work, a little play. Through Great Rivers Chicago we’ve been examining the feasibility of continuous riverfront trails throughout Chicago, which would be an investment equally good for access to jobs, providing recreational opportunities, improving public health and connecting communities. We know that because of the impact of many of the region’s other waterfront trails—the Lakefront Trail, Des Plaines River Trail, Fox River Trail, CalSag Trail and Centennial Trail to name a few. My resolution? Go run, ride or walk em all!
Chrissy Mancini Nichols, MPC director of research
I found a stat last year that showed Chicago wasn’t growing as much as our peer cities and regions—I’m looking at you, Houston, Minneapolis and Nashville—so I set out to figure out why. This region should be top of the charts because it’s the place that could grow the most sustainably in the U.S.—access to fresh water, little threat of natural disasters, a transit system for commuters.
Now, though, it turns out I’m one of the people headed for another city—New York. Through my research I’ve learned that the reasons Chicagoland isn’t growing are complicated, but there are solutions. Even as I’m about to start my next chapter, I look forward to continuing to dive into the data on growing the City That Works—and a region that will always have my heart.
Ariel Ranieri, MPC communications associate
As a non-planner on the MPC team, I feel like I learn something every day about the way our city, region or state functions (or doesn't function, as the case may be). My biggest learning curve this year has been all of the digging we've done for our Great Rivers Chicago project: Who's in charge of Chicago's rivers, for instance, is a way more complicated question than you might imagine.
One of my favorite aspects of my job is helping staff explain to non-planners like me how the work that we do here affects their lives. As a matter of fact, even explaining what we do can be difficult. In 2016, I'm looking forward to helping MPCers craft an ever more compelling portrait of MPC and the work we do.
Madeline Shepherd, MPC associate
In 2016 I want to commit to getting around differently. I live in a neighborhood with lots of amenities and excellent transit access, which I take full advantage of. But too often I hail a cab when I could take the bus, or take the train when I could ride my bicycle (especially to the office). With just a few more trips each week by bike, I could hit many traditional resolutions with one stone: exercise more, improve my mood, lower my stress levels and take in more of my neighborhoods and other great places in Chicago. It may be zero degrees out right now, but come Spring, that bike will be waiting for me!