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2010 Burnham Award for Excellence in Planning presented to Whistler Crossing, Riverdale, Ill.

© Farr Associates

The Metropolitan Planning Council and the 2010 Annual Luncheon Presenting Sponsor PNC awarded the 2010 Burnham Award for Excellence in Planning to the Whistler Crossing development in south suburban Riverdale, Ill. MPC has presented the award – named in honor of Daniel H. Burnham, the creator of the 1909 Plan of Chicago – since 1988.

As American families began to put down new roots after World War II, the Pacesetter townhomes sprang up in the south suburban village of Riverdale, promising attractive, affordable homes near Acme Steel and other local employers.

Just a decade later, in the 1960s, Pacesetter’s troubles began when its financially strapped owner sold the homes to individual buyers. Industrial jobs began to wane, and Pacesetter and its families became increasingly isolated — a trend that would continue until 2003, when Riverdale leaders decided something needed to be done.

The village enlisted Urban Land Institute-Chicago and the Metropolitan Planning Council to organize a Technical Assistance Panel, which advised the village not to tear down the property, as was originally proposed. They urged Riverdale to rehabilitate Pacesetter as mixed-income, mixed-use community.

But, they warned, it wouldn’t be easy. Fortunately, Riverdale found partners who were up to the tremendous challenge: Holsten Real Estate Development Corporation and Turnstone Development engaged the community in developing a plan, acquired properties from dozens of owners, and secured financing from 15 different sources. MPC’s Employer-Assisted Housing program and Regional Housing Initiative provided financing that helped secure key state and federal resources. Farr Associates designed a beautiful, walkable, energy-efficient community.

Today Pacesetter is Whistler Crossing, a sprawling, 500-unit housing and retail development, with well-designed open space, on-site resident services, and green development hallmarks. It is the first project in Illinois to achieve LEED-ND (Neighborhood Development) designation.

The Burnham Award, named in honor of Daniel Burnham, acknowledges this beautiful new neighborhood in Chicago’s south suburbs, and commends nearly a decade of collaboration between myriad partners that led to Whistler Crossing — a shining example of how to build a stronger, safer, more sustainable community.

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